One of my proudest healthy eating mama moments came when I took my daughter to our family doctor for her three-year-old check up. The doctor was giving me the standard (and sound!) advice on feeding my child a variety of foods including vegetables.
“We eat a lot of vegetables,” I sincerely assured her.
The doctor nodded with a look that said, “all parents say that,” and then turned to my young daughter and asked, “what’s your favorite vegetable?”
Much to my delight and to my doctor’s surprise, my usually quiet daughter, immediately and enthusiastically replied, “beets!”
Over ten years later, the gorgeous and versatile beet is still a welcome addition to our family’s menus. They make a regular appearance in my shopping cart throughout the year.
I look for beets that are smooth and round with a deep purple-red color. A few beet varieties are pale orange, gold or even playfully variegated with striped hues and often a milder flavor. I prefer to buy beets when they still have their tops attached because you get the bonus prize of nutrient packed dark leafy greens with every bunch.
I cut the leaves off about an inch above the beet, and then put them in a plastic bag and refrigerate them separately from the beets. The greens will keep up to one week and the beets will keep for two to three weeks. But in my house, they both usually find their way to our table long before that.
In cooler weather I love to roast beets. With just a splash of liquid, a twist of pepper and a pinch of caraway seeds, all wrapped up in parchment paper, they make a delicious smoky-sweet side dish. If I want a little more variety, I roast them along with other roots veggies.
Try beets with any combination of red and purple potatoes, carrots, rutabagas, turnips or parsnips for a tasty rainbow of colors.
If the beets are young, tender and small, I give them a good scrubbing and leave their skin on. This minimizes their tendency to “bleed” and color everything they touch a rich ruby red.
If they are larger and thicker skinned then I’ll peel them, either before I cook them or after roasting.
Steaming is another easy way to prepare beets. Wash, peel and cut them into quarters or eighths depending on their size. Place them in a steamer basket over an inch or so of water.
Alternatively you can put them directly into a sauce pan with a small amount of water. Then cover and simmer, making sure the water doesn’t evaporate, until you can easily pierce the beets with the tip of a knife. I like to add the chopped beet greens to the steamer for the last final minutes of cooking. The pairing of the slightly bitter wilted greens and the sweet firm beets is delicious!
Adding some chopped oranges even further enhances this simple dish. Another way we like our beets is not cooked at all.
Here’s a recipe for a great salad starring beets:
2 beets, washed and peeled
2 carrots, washed well
6-8 collard green leaves, finely chopped
10-12 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, finely grated
1 T. balsamic vinegar or fresh lemon juice
Pinch of sea salt (optional)
Grate beets and carrots on the large holes of a box grater or in a food processor. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and toss to coat. Taste, and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve at once, or refrigerate until serving.
Once dressed, this salad keeps well in the refrigerator for several days.
Make a big batch and have veggies ready to eat! I also like to make it with grated fresh ginger, a large amount of mint, rice vinegar instead of balsamic, and a splash of tamari. For another variation on this theme, try this Beet and Mint Slaw.
How does this beautiful root show up on your table?