SWEETEN UP YOUR WINTER MEALS WITH NUTRITIOUS AND IN-SEASON BEETROOT VEGETABLES.
By Bailey Gilliam
Beets are one of the most versatile root vegetables in existence. Native to the Mediterranean region, beets were originally used for medicinal purposes and did not become a popular food until the French recognized their potential in the 1800s. The nutritional benefits and ways to eat them are endless. The entire plant is edible and can be boiled, baked, steamed or eaten raw. Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of beets as well as how to incorporate them into your diet.
Beets are low in calories yet high in valuable vitamins and minerals. They’re also a good source of several key nutrients including folate, manganese and copper. Beets contain a high concentration of nitrates, which can help lower blood pressure and as a result lead to a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke and may increase blood flow to the brain and improve cognitive function. Eating beets may enhance athletic performance by improving oxygen use and endurance. Beets have a number of anti-inflammatory effects and are a good source of fiber, which benefits your digestive health and reduces the risk of several chronic health conditions. Some studies show that certain compounds found in beets could have cancer-fighting properties. Beets are high in water, moderate in fiber and protein and low in calories. All of these properties can balance your energy intake and improve your diet quality.
How to grow them
Beets are easy to grow in the garden, as they require little space. They can be grown from seed in the ground or in containers. This area is especially perfect for beets because they grow best in sandy soil. They thrive in the winter months, so aim to plant them when the temperature will not reach 75 degrees. Pick a spot with sun or partial shade and plant the seeds 1 to 2 inches apart in a row about 1/2-inch deep. Cover them lightly with loose soil and then sprinkle with water. Plants should begin to sprout in 7 to 14 days. For a continuous supply, plant your beets in several plantings, about 3 weeks apart from one another. Your beets will need at least 1 inch of water a week. Harvesting beets can be done 7 to 8 weeks after the planting of each group. When they have reached the desired size, simply dig them up from the soil. As for the leaves, tender beet greens can be harvested when thinning a row of beets. Mature leaves make good greens when it’s time to pull out the entire plant.
How to use them
Beets are perfect for any season. Roast them up in the winter for a hearty soup or shave them raw and toss them in a salad during the summer. They can be juiced, roasted, steamed, pickled — the options are endless. You even can enjoy their leaves in salads, cooked or as a garnish. The leaves are similar to those of Swiss chard or spinach. Not only can you eat every part of the beet, but the juice is also often used as a natural dye for foods and fabrics. LL
Where to order them
ELA’S On the Water Roasted Carolina Beet Napoleon: Red and gold beets with lightly fried herb and panko-crusted goat cheese.
Nunzio Restaurant + Bar Bietole con Caprino: Oven-roasted golden local beets, baby arugula, goat cheese and caramelized shallots.
The Pearl Kitchen & Bar Pickled Beet Salad: Micro arugula, heirloom baby carrots, pickled beets, almond crusted goat cheese and blackberry balsamic vinaigrette.
Frankie Bones Chilled Beets: Roasted beets, crumbled goat cheese, citrus vinaigrette, toasted hazelnuts and balsamic.
Where to buy them
Farmers Market of Bluffton: Purchase locally grown beets from noon to 5 p.m. on Thursdays in Old Town Bluffton.
Most local supermarkets: Our favorite spots for winter produce are Publix, Whole Foods, Kroger and Harris Teeter — in that order.
Schrute Farms: If you find yourself anywhere near Scranton, Pennsylvania, the beets grown at this 60-acre farm can’t be beat. Family members Zeke (the comedian), Dwight (the cool one) and Mose (the visionary) run the operation.
Roasted beetroot noodle salad
2 large beets, washed and peeled (peeling is optional; it looks nicer peeled but the peel also has a lot of nutrition)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons dark balsamic vinegar
2-3 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Thyme, for garnish
Directions  Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the beets using a spiralizer. Spread the beets out on a lined cookie sheet. Drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Roast the beets for 10-13 minutes or until the beets are soft.  As the beets roast, make the vinaigrette by placing all remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk until emulsified.  Place the roasted beets in a large bowl and pour over the vinaigrette. Stir to evenly coat the beets. Garnish with fresh thyme. Serve immediately while warm or at room temperature.
Oven-baked beet chips
12 beets, red, golden or mixed
1/2 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons sea salt
Directions  Heat the oven to 300 degrees and line several baking sheets with parchment paper. Scrub the beets well with a veggie brush and cut off the tops.  Use a mandolin slicer to slice the beets paper thin. When the beet slices are this thin, there is no need to peel them first.  Place the beet slices in a large bowl and pour the oil and salt over the top. Toss well. (If using red and golden beets, place in separate bowls and divide the oil and salt evenly.) Let the beets sit in the oil and salt until they release their natural juices, about 15-20 minutes.  Toss the beets again, then drain off the liquid. Lay the slices out in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 45-60 minutes until crisp but not brown. Test after 45 minutes and only bake longer if necessary. Remove the beet chips from the oven and cool completely before storing in an air-tight container.
Beet and ricotta hummus
1 baseball-sized red beet, scrubbed
1 15.5-oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup tahini, well mixed
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup ricotta
1 garlic clove, finely grated
1 teaspoon kosher salt
10 turns freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
Mint leaves, poppy seeds, pumpkin seeds and olive oil, for serving
Directions  Heat oven to 425 degrees. Wrap beet tightly in foil and place on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Roast until easily pierced with a fork, about 60-70 minutes. Let sit until cool enough to handle.  Meanwhile, process chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, ricotta, garlic, salt, pepper and coriander in a food processor until smooth.  Using a paper towel, rub beet to remove skin. Trim root end and cut beet into 8 pieces; add to food processor. Process until mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes. Season with salt to taste.  Transfer to a shallow bowl. Top with mint, poppy seeds, pumpkin seeds and drizzle with olive oil. Serve with vegetables and toasted breads.