When mother said eating beets was of importance, who listened? Few. For those of us who were either told that beets were gross or were served them from a can rather than fresh, I cannot find fault. Fresh beets are a whole different story. Fresh beets are flavorful, somewhat sweet, somewhat earthy. The blend of flavor runs the gamut from light to strong. A small baby beet shall hold less flavor that its larger counterpart. Golden beets possess a delicate flavor and aroma, whereas a large red beet more. Cut beets hold concentric circles of white, yellow, creamy, red and purplish hues. My mind goes to tie-dyed and kaleidoscope when I make that first cut and the mysterious interior unveils.

What’s out is in again; the food carousel

In my lifetime healthy started with meat and potatoes, veered into carbs, circled back to high protein – no carbs, no eggs, only eggs, fish – too much fish means too much mercury, simple sugars, healthy starch, Atkins, juice fasts, no fat, good fat, too much fat, cheese is out, pretend cheese, cheese is in, no butter, butter’s back again. I shall stop there, as butter is most definitely one of my food groups. Bottom line, I do not succumb to most of the fluctuations about what is good, bad and ugly when it comes to food. Eat what you like in moderation, make it colorful, eat seasonally, and above all – ENJOY EATING!

Back to Beets

So, early on, with a mother who grew up in a post WWII world, root vegetables were very low on her list of foods that hit the dinner table. Root vegetables stored and purchased, so understandable. But things skip a generation frequently, and I am happy to say, that once I realized how good beets, and many other root vegetables tasted, my children see them frequently on the dinner table. Soil greatly affect the flavor of many vegetables. So a beet grown in Maine is going to taste a bit different to the beet that is on the plate in the top restaurant in any arrondissement in Paris. Why? Varietal, minerals in the soil, growing temps, baby vs long growing beets. Like wine, root vegetables are products of their terroir.

If you do not like the first beet, try another. When possible, buy beets at farmer’s markets or smaller markets that buy from local farms. Beets found early in the season may taste different when deep into the winter months when they have sat in a root cellar and the sugars matured. Just like wine, non?

History & Origins

According to the History Kitchen beets are found in reference materials in Babylon, to Elizabethan times and at Jefferson’s Monticello (accessed 9/15/2020, https://www.pbs.org/food/the-history-kitchen/history-beets/).

Humans originally ate beet greens but not the thin and fibrous roots, which were occasionally used in medicine. The large beet leaves and stalks were consumed like chard, a close relative. Despite only growing well during spring and fall, beets were so well regarded in Ancient Rome and Greece that methods were developed for producing them during the hot summer months. The root part of the beet was cultivated for consumption in either Germany or Italy, first recorded in 1542.

Its earliest form more closely resembled a parsnip rather than the bulbous shape we’re now familiar with, which began appearing near the end of the 1500s. This variety is thought to have evolved from a prehistoric North African root vegetable. Soon it became the most recognizable form of beet, but it wasn’t a worldwide culinary success until two centuries later. Northeastern Europe was the first area to embrace the beet root as a dietary staple; it was valued as one of the only vegetables that grew well throughout winter.”
(accessed 9/15/2020, https://www.pbs.org/food/the-history-kitchen/history-beets/).

Versatile Beet

Steamed, roasted, grated fresh into a goat cheese salad (or roasted and topped with goat cheese, as per this recipe), or made into a soup – you can do it all with a beet.

Sugar Beets

Did you know that most white sugar comes from red beets? (Commonly known as sugar beets.) There is nothing wrong with it, and as far as nutrition goes, it is exactly the same as sugar cane. Beet sugar tends to cost less, usually, so perhaps this is a consideration. Personally as a Jam producer, I can tell the difference in flavor and use sugar cane based sugar for my products. Buy both, see if you notice a difference and make your purchase based on your personal preference.

Some additional recipes to try:

Russian Borscht Recipe from Valentina’s Corner
Simple Borscht Recipe from Feasting at Home
Baked Goat Cheese Salad from FOOD & WINE

Eat a Beet

Fresh beets are flavorful, somewhat sweet, somewhat earthy. The blend of flavor runs the gamut from light to strong.

Ingredients

  • BEETS:
  • 4-6 large beets, peeled and cut into large dice (.5"/1.25 cubes)
  • 1/2 tsp lavender
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 floz/60ml EVOO
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • BEET GREENS:
  • 1-2 bunches beet greens, washed and cut into 3"/7.5cm pieces
  • 2 floz/60ml EVOO
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • RICE:
  • 2 cups cooked rice (short grain was used, but you can use whatever you have available)
  • EXTRA: Crumbled fresh goat cheese, as much as you like!

Instructions

1

Preheat oven to 400°F/200°C

2

BEETS:

3

Wash, peel and cut beets into cubes.

4

Place in a bowl with other ingredients and coat well.

5

Spread on a parchment or foil lined baking pan or oven proof dish that is large enough for them to not be too stacked. The more spread out the better they will roast and crisp on the edges.

6

Roast for 30-40 mintues, until the edges start to brown and the beets are soft enough to bite into.

7

BEET GREENS: do this while the Beet Cubes are roasting

8

Sauté the greens in the EVOO until softened. Add salt and pepper to taste.

9

RICE: do this while the Beet Cubes are roasting

10

Cook according to the directions for they type of rice being cooked. Cooking times can vary.

11

ASSEMBLING THE SALAD:

12

Place the rice on a large dish. Spread the greens over the rice. Scatter the beet cubes over the greens and then dot with the crumbled goat cheese.

Notes

Makes for a perfect vegetarian dinner. To make it vegan, skip the cheese. Can be served as a side and is perfect for a picnic or a crowd!

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