It’s hard not to get excited when spring is just around the corner. Don’t get me wrong, winter is beautiful: Who isn’t awed by the quiet power of a snowstorm or the cool stillness of a frozen pond? But there’s an understated quality to the season of scarfs and mittens. Even most of the seasonal produce is low-key. That is, except for beets. With their splash of colour and tender texture, this root vegetable brings touch of sweetness and glamour to any late winter dish.
Beets aren’t just gorgeous; they’re super good for you too. Beets are rich in fiber, vitamin C, iron and potassium, and their pigment is full of powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that help protect against heart disease and some cancers. The greens attached to the beet are edible, delicious and also packed with their own vitamins and minerals. Beets have the highest sugar content of any vegetable, but they have very little fat or calories.
The most common types of beets are a dark reddish-purple color, but you can sometimes find them in orange, white or striped like a candy cane. I love to mix and match them in recipes for a pop of color. Look for beets that are firm with smooth skins and bright, crisp greens (if still attached). Don’t worry about the occasional knobby parts, 2-inch tail and hairs, that’s normal, but stay away from any that are shriveled or have browning, wilted leaves, which indicates that they are old.
Beet greens can be used in place of spinach or chard in recipes so don’t throw them away. The greens do leach moisture from the beetroot though, so cut them off, leaving about an inch of the stem attached, and store in a plastic bag in the fridge. (You’ll need to wash them and blot dry before using.) As for the beets, place them in a plastic bag and pop in the refrigerator. They’ll keep for about 2 weeks.
Before cooking, wash the beets gently, trying not to pierce the skin. It provides a barrier during cooking that holds in the nutrients and color. Beets can be shaved and eaten raw in salads. They add a vibrant flavour and texture and pair beautifully with fennel, toasted nuts and goat cheese. Or blend them into a smoothie; their natural sweetness works well with fruits.
You can boil beets, but I like them best roasted. Place whole, unpeeled beets in aluminum foil pouch, leaving it open at the top. Drizzle with olive oil and a teaspoon of water, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook in a 400-degree Fahrenheit oven for 25-30 minutes. A knife should be able to pierce through the beet without any resistance. When cool enough to handle, peel the beets.
With a pan of roasted beets in the kitchen, the world is your oyster. Puree them to use as a spread on crostinis or toss in an arugula salad with a little blue cheese. Toss them into soups or risottos, add to sandwiches, or do it up Aussie style and top your burger with slices of roasted beets. If you’re like me, you’ll probably just sprinkle with salt and pepper and dig in.
Working with beets can get a bit messy. The stunning red pigment can temporarily stain your hands and cutting boards, so consider throwing on a pair of gloves and laying wax paper over the board while working.
Dress up your winter dinner plate with this Oven Roasted Beets with Orange recipe.