When customers at market ask me what a beet tastes like, my answer is often “sweet and earthy, but not the flavor of dirt.” We grow three different colors of beets including the traditional red beets as well as golden beets and Chioggia beets (also known as candy-striped beets). Red beets generally have the most intense beet flavor while golden and Chioggia beets are usually more mild in flavor, but equally sweet. Early in the season we harvest beets with their tops still attached. The tops are edible as well, so it’s like getting two vegetables in one!
Beets can be eaten raw, however they are usually cooked. They can be roasted, boiled, baked, sautéed and grilled. They should be cooked whole with the skin on and the root tail intact in order to retain all of the valuable water-soluble nutrients. Once beets are cooked it is much easier to peel them. The pigments found in beets that give them their characteristic colors are actually phytonutrients and antioxidants that have a whole host of health benefits. Additionally, beets and their greens are packed with fiber, calcium, iron and vitamins A, C and K to name a few. If you usually discard the tops, I’d really encourage you to try finding a use for them this time. They can be lightly steamed, wilted or sautéed and served on their own or alongside the beet root as is done in the recipe below. Beet greens can also be incorporated into any dish or recipe that uses chard or spinach. Additionally, beet greens may be eaten raw in salads or enjoy them in a green smoothie to jump start your day.
Beets pair well with some bold ingredients such as horseradish, mustard and rich dairy products including yogurt, cream, sour cream and aged cheese. They also play well with other vegetables including carrots, potatoes, fennel, onions and a variety of salad greens. They are also delicious paired with fruits including apples, oranges, lemon, currants and pears.
Root Vegetable Slaw with Labneh
Yield: 6 servings
This recipe was borrowed and adapted from Jerusalem a Cookbook, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. Here’s how they introduce this recipe in their book. “We make this salad in the winter or early spring, before any of the summer crops are around. The labneh can be substituted with Greek Yogurt, well-seasoned with some olive oil, crushed garlic, and salt and pepper. It can also be left out altogether, if you prefer to keep it light and simple.”
3-4 medium beets*
1 medium kohlrabi, peeled*
2 medium carrots*
½ celery root*
4 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp sherry vinegar
2 tsp superfine sugar
¾ cup cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
¾ cup mint leaves, shredded
2/3 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
½ Tbsp grated lemon zest
Scant 1 cup labneh or Greek yogurt (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Peel all the vegetables and slice them thinly, about 1/16 inch thick. Stack a few slices at a time on top of one another and cut them into matchstick like strips. Alternatively, use a mandolin or a food processor with the appropriate attachment to cut the vegetables into thin strips or thick shreds. Set the vegetables aside while you make the dressing.
- Place the lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar, sugar, and 1 teaspoon salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer and stir until the sugar and the salt have dissolved. Remove from the heat.
- Pour the hot dressing over the vegetables, mix well, and leave to cool. Place in the fridge for at least 45 minutes.
- When ready to serve, add the herbs, lemon zest, and 1 teaspoon pepper to the salad. Toss well, taste, and add more salt if needed. Pile onto serving plates and serve with some labneh on the side (optional).
*Note: You can adapt this recipe according to the seasons. When you make this slaw early in the summer before carrots or celery root are available, just use a bit more of what you have. I made this slaw using only beets and kohlrabi. Just make sure you have a total of about 4 cups of vegetables overall.
Balsamic Glazed Beets & Greens
Yield: 4 servings
This recipe was created by Peter Berley and was featured in Food52 Genius Recipes. Here’s what the Food52 editors had to say about this recipe in its introduction. “I’m afraid we don’t understand beets as well as we could. …This (recipe) allows us to cook beets faster, like all the other vegetables we know better. Then, as Berley writes, ‘The greens are placed on top of the roots, the manner in which they grew.’ They steam and wilt, then get stirred throughout the glaze…Yes, we get to use the whole beet in one pan-including the greens and the peel—so there’s no hanging onto the tops with some unidentified goal, only to forget and throw them away a week later.”
1 medium red onion, cut into ¼ inch crescents (may substitute the bulb portion of 1 bunch of spring scallions, green tops reserved for another use)
4-5 fresh beets with tops (1 bunch), roots scrubbed, trimmed and cut into 4-6 wedges, greens & stems chopped into bite-sized pieces
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp unsalted butter or extra-virgin olive oil
2 sprigs fresh tarragon, leaves finely chopped*
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- In a heavy pan wide enough to hold the vegetables in a snug single layer, combine the onion, beet roots, vinegar, butter, tarragon, and ½ tsp. salt. Pour in enough water to barely cover the vegetables and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered for 25 minutes or until the beets are nearly but not quite tender.
- Raise the heat and boil, uncovered, until the liquid has reduced to a syrup and the beets are fork-tender.
- Add the beet greens, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes.
- Uncover and turn the greens over so they mix with the roots and onions. Add pepper and additional salt to taste. Simmer for 2 minutes more and serve.
*Note: If you do not have fresh tarragon, use another fresh herb in its place. When I tested the recipe I used fresh savory and the dish was delicious.