Saturday, April 26, 2008

Give (Fresh) Beets a Chance

A grad school friend of mine loved pickled beets so much that she would munch from an open jar as she walked home from the grocery store. While I sometimes snack on chips or candy on my way home from the store, I've never had this tendency with pickled beets. In fact, I think canned beets taste awful. For years, I assumed that I would feel the same way about beets in any form. However, after encountering a surprisingly good bowl of ginger beet soup, I began to wonder whether beets might deserve a second chance. Fresh beets, that is.

Fresh beets are really two vegetables in one. Of course, there is the root, which may be best known in its pickled, sliced and canned form. Roasting helps soften beet roots' earthy tones, and enhances their natural sweetness. Roasting is also the best way to preserve the nutrients in the beet root, which include folate, magnesium, iron, and vitamins A and C. Recent studies have found that beet juice may help lower blood pressure.

Although beet roots are packed with nutrients, beet leaves are actually the most nutritious part of the plant. They contain vitamins A, B-6 and C, as well as potassium and iron. Beet leaves are cooked in the same manner as kale or swiss chard, and can be substituted for those greens in recipes.

While my dislike of canned beets has not changed, I now enjoy cooked beet greens, and salads containing roasted beets. When you see fresh beets at the farmer's market this summer, don't pass them by. Give fresh beets a chance.

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