Beets are one of the many root vegetables that are available year-round, making them a great seasonal addition to your winter meals. The best time to buy them, however, is when they are in season June through October. I asked Jody Victor® to tell us more.
Jody Victor®: In-season beets are at their most tender. Look for unblemished bulbs with sturdy, un-wilted greens. Beets with round bottoms are sweeter than flat-bottomed ones. Besides the usual red beets you can find golden beets and a pink-and-white striped variety. If possible, take your beets home with the greens intact. Beets are loaded with Vitamins A, B1, B6, and C and also with calcium, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, sodium, and iron. Beet greens contain a high content of beta-carotene and a higher content of iron than spinach.
Beets have been cultivated since the second millennium BC. Beets are believed to have been domesticated somewhere along the Mediterranean and later spread to Babylonia by the 8th century BC and as far as China just fifty years later. Aristotle and Theophrastus made mention of beets in their writings. Beets became commercially important in the 19th century when Germany developed the sugar beet. It was discovered that sucrose could be extracted from the sugar beet, providing an alternative to tropical sugar cane. Beets remain a widely commercial crop for producing table sugar.
The roots and the leaves of the beet have been used in folk medicine to treat a wide variety of ailments. Ancient Romans used beetroot for fevers and constipation. Hippocrates used beet leaves to bind wounds. Beetroot juice has been used to improve performance in athletes due to its high concentration of nitrites. The pigment molecule betanin found in beets protects against oxidative stress and has been used for this purpose in Europe for centuries. The many health benefits of simple beet juice recognized today include:
ACIDOSIS The alkalinity of beets is effective in combating acidosis.
ANEMIA Its high iron content regenerates and reactivates red blood cells and supplies fresh oxygen. The copper in beets helps make the iron more available to your body.
ATHEROSCLEROSIS Beet juice is a powerful solvent for inorganic calcium deposits that cause arteries to harden.
BLOOD PRESSURE Normalizes blood pressure by lowering high blood pressure or elevating low blood pressure.
CANCER An amino acid in beetroot called betaine has significant anti-cancer properties. Especially helpful against colon and stomach cancer.
CONSTIPATION Its cellulose content eases bowel movement. Drinking beet juice regularly helps chronic constipation.
DANDRUFF Mix a little beet vinegar with a small cup of beet juice. Massage into scalp with fingertips. Leave on for one hour, then rinse.
DETOXIFICATION The choline from beet juice detoxifies not only the liver, but also your entire system of excessive alcohol consumption.
GASTRIC ULCER Mix honey with beet juice. Drink 2 to 3 times a week on an empty stomach to speed up the healing process.
GALL BLADDER and KIDNEY AILMENTS Coupled with carrot juice, beet juice has superb cleansing properties that are exceptional in treating these two organs.
GOUT The cleansing properties of beet juice helps greatly with gout.
LIVER or BILE The cleansing properties of beets help aid healing for liver and bile ailments such as jaundice, hepatitis, food poisoning, diarrhea, or vomiting. A squeeze of lime with beet juice heightens the aid.
VARICOSE VEINS Beet juice helps to maintain the elasticity of arteries. Regular consumption helps prevent varicose veins.
One note of caution: All parts of the beet contain oxalic acid. People who have a history of oxalate-containing kidney stones should limit their consumption of beets.
Beetroot can be prepared by boiling, roasting or microwaving. It can be cooked, pickled, and eaten cold as a condiment. It can be peeled, shredded raw, and eaten as a salad. Beet juice is used to stabilize foods with low water content, such as frozen novelties and fruit fillings. Betanins from beetroot are used as food colorants to intensify the color of tomato paste, sauces, jams and jellies, ice cream, sweets, and breakfast cereals.
Roasting is the easiest way to prepare beets mainly because the skins will slip right off. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut greens away, leaving about 1/4 inch of stems. Scrub the beets and place in a baking dish or a lidded ovenproof casserole dish. Add 1/4 inch of water. Cover tightly with foil or lid. Place in oven. Roast small beets (3 oz or less) for 30 to 40 minutes; medium beets (4-6 oz) for 40 to 45 minutes; large beets (8+ oz) for 50 to 60 minutes. When done, they are easily pierced with a fork. Remove from oven and cool in baking dish. Cut away ends and slip off the skins. Roasted beets will keep for 5 days in a covered bowl in the refrigerator. It is best not to peel them until you are ready to use them. If boiling the beets, cook for 20 to 30 minutes or until tender. Also if boiling, add a little lemon juice or vinegar to the water to keep the beets from bleeding. If microwaving, cook the beats with a little water for 8 to 15 minutes. If you’re mixing the beets with other vegetables (EX: in a salad), cook and dress the beets separately and add them last. Their strong coloring will seep into everything otherwise.
ROASTED BEETS WITH FETA
Peel 4 medium beets and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Place on a baking sheet and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Roast at 450 degrees, stirring once or twice, until tender (about 35 minutes). Transfer to bowl and toss with 4 chopped scallions and 2 teaspoons wine vinegar. Top with crumbled feta.
ROASTED ROOT MEDLEY
20-30 baby carrots
10-12 baby turnips, peeled
8-10 new red potatoes, cut to baby carrot-sized pieces
1-2 large parsnips, peeled and cut diagonally in 1-inch thick slices
1-2 medium onions, halved then quartered
1-2 large beets, peeled cut into thick wedges
1 whole head garlic, separated into cloves
2-3 fresh sprigs of rosemary, sage, or thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put all the root vegetables and herb sprigs into a large baking dish. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle generously with olive oil and toss to coat evenly. Put vegetables in preheated oven and cook until they are tender and golden brown. Stir vegetables occasionally. Serve from baking dish or transfer to a platter to accompany a roast.
All the Best!