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By Brenna Thompson, MS, RD, LD
August 10, 2017
I tried my first beet during my dietetic internship in 2009 and have been hooked ever since. I have no idea what I was scared of and why I waited so long to try them, maybe you can relate to that feeling? I got so addicted that after I started growing and pickling them last year, I made the fatal mistake of tripling my crop this summer. Beet overload! If you too have been inundated with beets from your garden or CSA, I’m here to share some simple ideas to help you eat up all those delicious roots (and why they are so good for us!) without having to make borscht. But that would be a delicious option, too.
I often tell clients that the darker the color of the fruit or vegetable, the more nutrient dense it is-- meaning the more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants it contains. The dark red roots and dark green leaves of beets contain an astonishing amount of vitamin C, A and K. They are rich in the B vitamin folate, which is important for proper cell replication. Beets also contain a large amount of betain, which helps lower inflammation in the blood vessels and internal organs, and improves detoxification in the liver.
Don’t throw the beet greens out, they are edible and delicious. Similar to spinach, Swiss chard, or kale, beet greens can be torn or sliced into pieces and sautéed in a little butter or bacon grease with garlic, salt, and pepper. If you want to get fancy, add diced onion and finish with a squeeze of lemon juice or a splash of cream. Since their flavor is very mild, raw greens can be added to a mixed salad, or blended into a smoothie like this one.
Summer Garden Smoothie
While it’s not overly sweet, this smoothie is very nutrient dense, boasting 18g fiber, almost 30% Daily Value (DV) for folate, 47% DV for calcium, 97% DV vitamin C, 64% DV for magnesium, 210% DV for vitamin A, and a whopping 854% DV for vitamin K.
Let’s face it, beets take a while to cook. But if you simply peel them, and then shred with a food processor, you set yourself up for a world of possibilities. Shredded beets can be tossed with shredded carrots and/or cabbage for a new twist on coleslaw. Beets pair really well with citrus, pistachios, and dill, so go wild with fun salad combinations. Shredded beets can also be sautéed and then added to an egg bake, mixed into beef burgers or the Nutritional Weight & Wellness Wild Rice Meatballs. You might even try sneaking them into your favorite chili recipe. The key is to use sparingly so you don’t just get a big mouthful of beets. Of course you can always blend them into a smoothie too.
Root vegetables are great for roasting, but in these hot summer months the last thing I want to do is turn on the oven. Instead, try peeling your beets and cut them into quarters. Toss with olive oil or melted coconut oil, salt and pepper and grill them, covered about 10 minutes per side. If I don’t have the patience, I have also found that a toaster oven does just as good of a job at roasting vegetables as an oven; just cut beets into bite-sized pieces and cook with lard at 400 degrees for 45-60 minutes. Once cooked, you can eat them as is, or try dressing them with a sesame ginger vinaigrette. My husband loves roasted beets on a big salad with crumbled goat cheese, chicken and walnuts or almonds. And yes…you can even blend them into a smoothie (are you noticing a trend here?).
Most people are familiar with pickled beets (delicious), but did you know you can ferment them? Simply peel and thinly slice your beets and layer in a sterilized wide mouth jar. Feel free to add some fresh garlic cloves and a few peppercorns. Dissolve 2 tablespoons of salt with 2 cups filtered water and pour over the beets, making sure they are covered. You may need to weigh them down with a sterilized rock or marbles since they have a tendency to float as the fermentation process begins. Cover the jar with a lid, or use an airlock (Pickle Pipe is a beginner fermenters airlock that works great!); if not using an airlock, make sure to “burp” your beets every 1-2 days to release extra gas. Keep your jar on a counter, out of direct sun light for 5-14 days depending upon your taste preferences. Once fermented, store your beets in the fridge.
Ok, enough reading, time to beet it and get cooking. Enjoy the bountiful summer harvest while it lasts!