My favorite cartoons (are these counted as cartoons?) of all time are Rugrats, Looney Toons, Ah! Real Monsters, and Doug. Remember Doug? The nerdy, khaki-shorts, green sweater-vest-wearing boy of Nickelodeon made his style and having a big nose and the nasaly voice that comes with it even less cool than it already was. His gaggle of friends, arch-nemesis Roger, and beatnik sister provided him with a plethora of challenges to be faced each and every episode. Not to fear, though, Doug, like most teenagers, has a favorite band that he idols. The Beets. The Beets were famous for such songs as Killer Tofu and I Need More Allowance. But the one thing the beets did for me… made me wonder what a beet is. That’s right my friends, I didn’t have my first encounter with a beet until a few months ago.
I was discussing my new found love for beets with my Mom and her sister the other day. My Mom is very well known for her healthy eating habits and dislike for most things sweet and tasty. The rest of the family is well known for their love of all things sweet and tasty. So when I mentioned that I had my first beet a few months ago, my Aunt was surprised that my Mom never fed as beets as a kid. I replied that it’s probably good she hadn’t because I doubt we would have liked them. And now I love them. I’ve eaten so many beets the past few days that I (TMI warning) had pinkish pee the other day. I texted my Mom to inform her of this really important update.
So I thought it was only fitting that my much anticipated return to discussing goodie packed foods be about beets. And what better place to start than pink pee?
Much like asparagus, beets affect our urine. However, only about 14% of the population experiences this phenomena and apparently I am one of the lucky few. It even has a fancy name– Beeturia. Beeturia can be a sign of low iron levels in the body but I like to think it is my body saying “weeee beeeeeets!” Guess I should get those iron levels checked…
Fascinating, yes? For those pregnant ladies (or pregnant men) out there, beets are an excellent source of folate, 68mcg in 1/2 cup to be exact, which we know is incredibly important in protecting the fetus against a number of issues (no need to go through them but this wikipedia article can help you :-) ). It is recommended that those carrying precious cargo get about 520 mcg and non-carrying women and men get 320 mcg.
So what if you’re not concerned about your folate intake? Well you’ll be happy to know that 1/2 cup of beets also contain 1.43 grams of protein, 37 calories, and 1.7 grams of dietary fiber. (To see what your body needs check out this chart)
Potassium - 259 mg
Phosphorus - 32 mg
Magnesium - 20 mg
Calcium - 14 mg
Iron - 0.67 mg
Sodium - 65 mg
Zinc - 0.3 mg
Copper - 0.063 mg
Manganese - 0.277 mg
Selenium - 0.6 mcg
Also contains small amounts of other minerals.
Vitamin A - 30 iu
Vitamin C - 3.1 mg
Niacin - 0.281 mg
Folate - 68 mcg
Vitamin B1 (thiamine) – 0.023 mg
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) – 0.034 mg
Pantothenic Acid - 0.123 mg
Vitamin B6 - 0.057 mg
Vitamin K - 0.2 mcg
Vitamin E - 0.03 mg
Contains some other vitamins in small amounts.
Now that we know how fantastic they are, lets talk about how to buy them. The first time I went to buy beets after having them in a salad at one of my favorite Doodlehem restaurants, Tapas on Main, I ran screaming from the produce aisle. Well… not really but it’s funny to imagine me doing that. I just backed away slowly. See, I thought that maybe I could buy just one beet. I am only one person afterall and how many beets does one person really need? At the time I thought it was only one.
Beets are sold as a bunch.
But trust me, once you have on beet you’ll be glad they are sold as a bunch.
If you’re lucky to live in a place where there are tons of farmer’s markets, like me, you’ll find that the beets are one of the first things to go. Beets and eggs. One of the best things about buying your produce at a farmer’s market is the farmers are the best source on how to cook, serve, eat, and store their produce. Unless you ask this one guy who sells really amazing tomatoes but for some reason has no desire to talk about what he does with his produce. Take pride man!
(My purple bounty… the purple potatoes cook up purple! Sadly, the green beans turn green once cooked.)
You want beets that are firm, no soft spots, looking good, and with bright green leafys still attached. If the leaves long vibrant that means they were recently plucked from the ground! This is most important if you intend to eat the greens as well, which I have not done yet. Don’t fret if the greens aren’t attached or aren’t looking quite as fresh as you’d like them. Just check out the beet and make sure that’s looking fresh. You want it to be smooth and not too hairy… hmm. ;-)
When you get home you should cut the greens off the root or they will suck moisture from the beet. Beets are fantastic in that they can keep for weeks but are best when eaten within the first week or two. Beets are actually in their prime right now, but because of their long staying power they are often associated with the fall.
Now don’t be confused by the nasty congealed beets your familiar with. You know the kind. They show up in buffets and salad bars. I was always scared by those beets. Fresh beets have a sweet fresh taste to them. I don’t know what those other ones taste like but I imagine very processed and gooey.
On to the cooking. Don’t peel the beet. I repeat, don’t peel the beet. Much like potatoes, you can eat the peal and it provides nutrients. I personally like to eat the peal. You can peel the beet after roasting when it will just slide right off the vegetable. It also serves to protect the beet during cooking and protect you and your cookware from purple stains (fun fact, beets are an excellent food dye replacement!). So how exactly do you cook a beet? Roasting is really easy. I like to roll whole beets in a bowl of olive oil and spices, put the beets on tin foil and roll the foil up to make a pocket. See those mini potatoes above? I did the same thing to them, using the save olive oil mixture, and roasted them at the same time as the beets. Soooo yummy. Beets are super resilient so if you have other things in your oven that need to roast at a certain temp, go for it. Otherwise, I like to do 375 degrees for about an hour. Smaller beets will obviously require less time. Once your roasted beets are done you have some options. I like to cut right into them and chow down. You can also let them cool first and then slide the peel right off. The cooled down roasted beets can be used sliced up in salads (this is how I first experienced the beet). You can also slice them up and cook them further on the stove to add more flavor, but I don’t feel like the beet needs more flavor.
If you don’t want to spend an hour roasting your beets another way I like to cook them is by dicing them and sauteing them in a pan with olive oil and spices. The first time I did this the beets got a little burnt but I like burnt food so I wasn’t too upset!
And then I found this fantastic idea on Pinterest. Beet chips. You can be sure this is on my list of meals for this week.
Have you ever had a beet? What’s your favorite way to enjoy beets?
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