One of the things I love is food. I love to eat great food – of course – but I truly love everything about food. I love to think about and study the nutrition behind food; I find food policy both fascinating and infuriating; pictures of food; reading about food. Seriously, I even love food shopping. I dig it.
I go through periods of loving a particular food or type of cooking, etc. At the moment, I am beet-obsessed. I have really always liked beets, but I am currently on an eat-beets-everyday kick, so I thought I’d share some of the beet love here.
I don’t think I ever ate a fresh beet until culinary school. Until then, my love for beets was based solely on the typical salad bar sliced beets (If I’m forgetting some amazing beets you made for me, Mom, I apologize). I don’t think there was an “aha” moment or anything. I just started loving the salad that was showing up on every menu – greens with roasted beets and goat cheese, usually with an aged balsamic vinaigrette.
I know there are many people who think beets taste like dirt. These unfortunates may very well go through life without knowing the joy of the beet! I can’t help everyone. Maybe beets are like cilantro – tasting significantly different to some people based on some kind of chemistry that I’ve only skimmed articles about. In my own personal experience, beets have a sweet taste.
In addition to being a tasty veggie, beets are inexpensive, which should make them at least a little interesting. As a vegetable, beets are naturally low in calories and are fat- and cholesterol-free. More points for beets!
Beets make fleet feet.
Even more interesting to me are the studies that link beets with better running. That’s right. There’s a connection between the nitrates you get from consuming beets and the ability to run faster. You can learn more about the specifics here and here.
Not sold? Let me share some additional health benefits. Beets are:
- Rich in antioxidants (they are cancer fighters)
- An excellent source of folate (which can decrease blood levels of homocysteine, in turn decreasing the risk of inflammation and heart disease)
- High in potassium (important for heart health – see more here)
- High in fiber (helps maintain healthy weight and good digestive health)
- A good source of vitamin C (it seems like vitamin C is good for everything! One of its important contributions is helping us absorb iron from plant sources, such as kale, spinach, and broccoli).
What to do with that dirty bunch of beets:
So, you got inspired and bought some beets at the farmer’s market. Or, your CSA sent them home in your weekly box of vegetables. Or your neighbor dropped off some extras from the garden. However it happened, here you are, faced with dirty roots and giant leaves. First, if you aren’t ready to do anything with them, twist or cut the greens off, leaving about an inch attached. Wash them and put them in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of the fridge. Leave the top of the bag open. Toss the dirty beets into another bag and put that in the crisper as well (leave the bag open). Scrub them when you’re ready to cook them.
Fresh beets can be intimidating to the novice cook. What to do with all those greens? Do I peel it? What about the stringy root-like stuff? They are actually surprisingly easy to prepare and to include in your diet. My two favorite ways to prepare beets are roasting them and steaming them.
To roast them, cut off the top and bottom of each beet; peel and quarter them; toss in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread them out on a pan and cook them at 425° F. To steam them, scrub the outside of each (unpeeled) beet with a vegetable brush; cut the tops and bottoms off; and then toss them in the steamer until you can pierce them easily with a fork. Let them cool or run them under cold water and the skins will slip right off.
I like to roast them with parsnips and olive oil in the fall. While it’s hot outside, I prefer to steam them and then add them to my salads and smoothies. What about you?