In Season: Beets

by in In Season, December 18, 2009

Citrus & Beets Salad
Beets have a long growing season that wraps up soon. I’ve been getting a lot of them in my weekly CSA share, so I’m always trying to find more ways to enjoy these colorful root veggies.

What, Where & When?
Once treasured by the Greeks, beets were a common offering to the great Apollo, god of the sun, poetry and the arts. These days, they are featured in many cuisines and harvested from late spring to early winter and keep for weeks (more on that below).

From the same family as Swiss chard, round and hardy beets (or beetroots) grow underground — this is what most folks find at the supermarket. They also have red-veined, green leaves that shoot up above the soil; both a beet’s roots and the greens are edible.

Before you enjoy beets, be sure to peel away the dirt-stained skin to reveal the gorgeous colors inside — different varieties are dark red, golden-orange and even red and white striped. Those deep-colored ones can leave their mark your fingers (and countertops and cutting boards), but lemon juice will help get the stains out. You might also want to prep them with rubber gloves.

Nutrition Facts
One cup of raw beets has 58 calories, 4 grams of fiber and provides a good amount of folate, a nutrient good for cell formation and healthy red blood cells. Don’t toss out those greens — one cup (cooked) has 39 calories and is chock full of vitamins A, C, K, magnesium and potassium.

What To Do With Beets
The simplest serving idea is just adding crunchy raw beets to salads and slaws. When cooked, these veggies become sweet and buttery. Roasting caramelizes their natural sugars, making them extra delicious. Cooked beets also work in salads, but for something more, try tossing them in a roasted vegetable medley or mixing them with a batch of cooked grains such as quinoa or risotto. As for the greens, steam, sauté or wilt chopped bits into soups, stews, pasta dishes or tomato sauce — use them anywhere you would Swiss chard or spinach.

Although beets are available most of the year, you can preserve them for months by pickling or canning so you’re never without.

Shopping Tip: Store unwashed beets (greens removed) in the refrigerator for four weeks. Greens are much more perishable; place them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator and use them within four days.

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