Beets get a bad rap. This earthy vegetable is under used and often labelled as unpleasant. The issue is most likely not beets themselves, but rather the person behind the vegetable. Abuse or misuse seems to be my experience.
The beet is a humble root vegetable with so much potential. Its hard flesh and deep magenta or golden yellow colour leaves you, the creator, with a world of possibilities. From a salad to a main dish, a smoothie to a dessert, this simple delight can be used in so many delicious ways. Raw, roasted, boiled and baked, this vegetable can bring colour, texture and variety to any table.
This unique vegetable comes in many varieties, including red, golden and candy cane, with all three coming in full and baby-sized versions. The green tops or leaves of the beets can be eaten, as well. They make a great addition to soups or salads, or can be enjoyed in similar fashion to Swiss chard.
Not only can beets be delicious, they have many great health benefits. Being a good source of vitamins A, B and C as well as potassium, beets also have high levels of antioxidant betalains. These vitamins and minerals help fight disease, strengthen the vital organs and keep your immune system healthy.
An easy way to eat beets is raw. Peel them, while wearing gloves to avoid staining, and slice or grate the flesh. Add to a mixed green salad, on top of an appetizer or into your favourite smoothie. The taste will be less pungent and you can take advantage of all the health benefits.
Cooked beets are where many people go wrong. They either under or overcook this poor vegetable and serve it in a flavourless way. Boiled beets, which seem easy to make, leave the vegetable with less aroma and texture, rendering it at times inedible. An easy tip is to only simmer beets in liquid when making soup. All the delicious deep earthy flavours can be captured in the liquid and enjoyed in every spoonful, rather than tossed away.
For those who think that beets are unpleasant due to a bad experience or maybe no experience at all, may I suggest a test: Simply wrap a beet in foil, place in an oven and bake until tender. Place under cool water and peel with ease. Taste the product, naked and free of any other flavours. The final product is sweet, savoury, deep and earthy, maybe even heavenly. A roasted beet is a thing of beauty, a simple pleasure in life that most people overlook. I highly recommend trying a roasted beet; what’s the worst thing that can happen? You find a new vegetable option or you spit it out and have an educated dislike for beets.
After trying this little prairie treat, I encourage you to attempt something fresh and different. These flavours and food products compliment this root vegetable nicely: ground cumin and coriander, dill, thyme, garlic, oranges, balsamic and red wine vinegar, goat cheese, parmesan cheese, nuts, honey, maple syrup, beef, horseradish and my favorite, vodka. Roast a beet and add one of these ingredients. Be creative, try new combinations and give beets a chance!
Melissa Hryb is the chef at Marion Street Eatery, where she specializes in hearty comfort food with a twist.
Follow her on Twitter @MarionStreetEat or Instagram @MarionStreetEatery