Gimme a Beet!

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We never ate beets growing up; they simply never made their way onto my mother's shopping list. However, I've taken the time to quickly correct that situation and am currently making up for lost time. I've got purple-stained fingers for proof.

Beets, also known as beetroot, often take a back seat in the vegetable world, and that saddens me. Beets are often relegated to a strange shelf of a produce department, way in the back. I've heard friends and customers say:

"Well, even if I did buy them, I'd have absolutely no idea what to do with them."

"If I really wanted them I'd buy them canned. It's much easier."

"Do I look Russian to you? Nyet."

"Beets taste like dirt. No thank you."

"Why is this creepy tattooed guy following me around the produce department? I"m calling security."

I'm ok with being on a one-man mission to sing the praises of beets. Because properly done, beets are so utterly satisfying, so unique and flavorful, that they become something of a superstar on the table. No, trust me on this one. There's nothing like them. That nutty, sweet, earthy, iron-y flavor cannot be matched by any other of Mother Nature's vegetables.

Ok, so if I can't sell people on flavor surely I can sell them on nutrition. Beets pack a nutritional punch and contain compounds that protect against heart disease and other maladies. Beets have betacyanin, giving them that deep purple color, and it's also rich in beneficial flavonoids. Include decent amounts of folate, manganese, fiber, potassium, iron and magnesium and you'll see why beets are the way to go.

(However, beets are high in Oxalates, naturally-occurring substances found in the animals, plants, and us. Oxalates can become concentrated in body fluids and crystalize, so you should consult your doctor if you are prone to kidney or gallbladder problems. I am not a doctor, fyi.)

Beets have the highest sugar content of all vegetables, which not only gives them that unique sweetness but also plays a big part in their texture when roasted. The sugars carmelize, giving them a delicious sweet, roasted taste and shiny appearance. But you don't have to fire up the oven to enjoy them–grate beets into salads or on top of soups, sauté the greens on top of the beets as you would mustard greens or chard, juice them, microwave them, steam them, fry them, mash them, etc.

However you prepare them, be gentle. You don't want to bruise or cut the beet's skin when rinsing them before using. They may seem hearty, and to an extent they are, but treat them with kind hands and let them lavish you with taste and good-for-you compounds.

What's your way with beets?

P.S. How do I state this gingerly? Consuming beets can often leave you with Beeturia, a harmless physiological process that turns, um, well, your "output" red. Not to worry, it's just your body's way of ridding itself of excess pigments found in beets.

24 Responses to “Gimme a Beet!”

  1. Anonymous Anonymous 

    ah yes, I am like you Matt, a true beet lover. I belong to Beet-Land, and have tons of beet recipes!!! When I think that a friend of my dad's, many many years ago told me only his cows ate beets!

  2. Anonymous Anonymous 

    Oh yes, I was just about to add to your comment about the beet-stained fingers how that's not the only thing beets can stain, but luckily you said it for me ;)

    I've never understood why people hate beets so much. I love them pickled on salads and roasted to caramelly perfection with chicken, and now you've given me the idea to try mashing them.

    The only other thing I would add to your lovely post is a warning: do not wear anything that won't benefit from a few garnet-colored stains when you're preparing beets. I've learned the hard way.

  3. Anonymous Anonymous 

    Great write-up on beets! I really enjoy your information Matt! I am a fellow beet-lover as well but am rather intimated to prepare them myself. Hopefully you can make a recipe with them =)

    Visit my new food blog!

  4. Anonymous Anonymous 

    I never liked beets growing up, but that was because we always had the from the can... not recommened unless you are going to creatively disguise their canny-ness. However, I think no vegetable makes me as happy as the beet now that I'm all grown up! I like the red beets, but my favorite are golden...

  5. Anonymous Anonymous 

    I, too, am a long-time beet lover. We usually always fixed them Harvard at the nursing home, but I prefer them just steamed and served with lots of butter and salt and pepper. Since I've cut back on my garden space in the last few years I no longer grow them. Luckily they're readily found at the farmer's market. Or on my doorstep when the neighbor gets sick of canning them! LOL

    Great post, Matt.

  6. Anonymous Anonymous 

    I totally agree with you, Matt. I just blogged about beets too! (Although I avoided any mention of Beeturia, since I could not think of a way to put it so well as you. You were quite, um, delicate.) I am a relative beet newbie, as it were, and I adore them. I feel quite deeply in my soul that people who do not like beets have just never had them prepared properly.

    I put up a beet and goat cheese tart recipe here.

  7. Anonymous Anonymous 

    Beets for me are a acquire taste. Although i have to say that now i cannot remember when i didn't like them.. I love them with Alioli.. YUM!
    Great post!

  8. Anonymous Anonymous 

    I love beets and also enjoy their greens which are very delicate tasting! There are so many ways to prepare them (salads, gratins, cakes, etc...) that I could never get tired of this wonderful vegetable...

    I love my beets coarsely grated (already cooked), gently fried with chopped shallots and garlic, then with added balsamic vinegar and sour cream, salt and pepper. That's lovely! Or oven-baked and sliced with bechamel sauce...

  9. Anonymous Anonymous 

    We never ever had beets on the table as kids, being Asian and all. But I've since discovered the pleasures of beets roasted long and slow with a touch of balsamic vinegar. 'Love your illustration, btw.

  10. Anonymous Anonymous 

    i'm with eggy on this, beets were definitely not something you had growing up asian but i've come to quickly pull them into my diet and i find them so easy to cook and eat.

    my fave, roasted and sliced onto arugala with a smattering of goat cheese. mmm.. fantastico.

    that or on top of some oven baked sweet potato rosti.

    or... well i could keep going on and on.

  11. Anonymous Anonymous 

    i ate my first beet about 10 years ago after thumbing my nose at them every time i passed them by on a salad bar. i think i ate my first beet on a dare from my mother, and i can't get enough beets since then. i love them pickled, roasted, can't wait to try them mashed, and i LOVE them deep fried, a delicacy i discovered in austin. they fry 'em up like fried pickle chips and they're unbelievable - don't need any sort of dressing or dipping sauce, they're salty and sweet and crispy and tender all in one explosive, delicious bite. i think fried beets start out in life as well-drained pickled beets as they have that slightly pickled flavor under the tempura-like batter.

    you gotta try them.

    there's nothing like the taste of a good beet - a mouthful of fresh soil-meets-raw sugar goodness!

  12. Anonymous Anonymous 

    I just blogged about beets too. I especially like them cold combined with slices of orange and a vinaigrette. But I also like them roasted, in soup, raw and finely shredded for salad...

  13. Anonymous Anonymous 

    I could eat roasted beets every day of my life. Favorite preparation: baby golden beets: roasted and peeled (duh). Sauté the greens briefly in a little olive oil until limp, and plate. Top with beets (sliced or cut into chunks). Add goat cheese and toasted pine nuts, abd add a drizzle of your best balsamic vinegar—the thicker, the better. One twirl or two of ground pepper, and voilà!

    Beet me up, Scotty.

    : D

  14. Anonymous Anonymous 

    I'd always thought beets were rather disgusting. But I joined an organic garden a few years ago, and beets were part of the package. The organizers gave us recipes, including one for a beet slaw.

    Long story short: I now love beets (and not just the beet slaw).

  15. Anonymous Anonymous 

    whenever i bake (fairly often), i'll eat all of the cookies in secret that aren't "perfect" --- thereby eating like 10 cookies in one sitting!!!! eeeeek!

  16. Anonymous Anonymous 

    I never once ate beets as a child. My father hated beets so much that he refered to vomiting as "blowing beets". (e.g. I feel awful, I think I'm gonna blow beets!)

    It wasn't until a cooking class when we made a fresh roasted beet salad with baby greens that I was converted. There were so many colors, red, yellow, striped purple! I had to make it for myself. Naturally I ate too many and the next day, oblivious to the previous night's meal, I thought I was dying of internal bleeding...

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About me

  • I'm Matt Armendariz
  • From Los Angeles, California
  • A man with a passion for good food and a wonderful life with a dash of irreverence. Read at your own risk. Advertising director by day, wino by night. All photos on this site by Matt Armendariz.
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