Beets. We seem to get our fair share of beets in the fall and winter from our storage crops, and quickly and swiftly and are constantly seeking ways to prepare them. Most of us shy away from beets, as they take so long to cook, and make our pee red. Learning and reading more about this hard little tap-root vegetable really helps in knowing why we should not “swap out” our beets. Beets are an energy booster. Great for athletes because they increase the amount of oxygen that the cells in our bodies can absorb, providing added strength and resistance and as well, a blood builder which assists to combat anemia and other blood disorders. They have heart-healthy, anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. The red pigments also cause beeturia, a condition which makes urine red which is harmless and can be surprising none the less and entertaining to see.
Researching the beet I have come across some very interesting facts and information. The beet, also known as Beta vulgaris is a plant which is also in the in the “Chenopodiaceae” family, meaning they come from a flowering plant variety and are very drought resistant, making them an ideal plant to grow in harsh conditions.
Beets can be peeled, steamed, and then eaten warm with butter. They can be cooked, pickled, and then eaten cold as a condiment; or peeled, shredded raw, and then eaten as a salad. Pickled beets are a traditional food of South America. It is also common in Australia and New Zealand for pickled beetroot to be served on a hamburger. A traditional Pennsylvania Dutch dish is Red Beet Eggs. Hard-boiled eggs are refrigerated in the liquid left over from pickling beets and allowed to marinate until the eggs turn a deep pink-red colour. In Poland, beet is combined with horseradish to form popular salad which is often added to a meal consisting of meat and potatoes. Beetroot can also be used to make wine.
Don’t forget to eat the leaves. When the fresh beets are in season, take advantage of the beet tops. They are treated much the same as spinach and can be cooked much like swiss chard. I have even used them in lasagna or sliced thin in a salad. Some think the tops are the most delicious part of the beet itself.
I am particularly enjoying the other variety of beets that are golden-yellow, orange or event the red and white variety. Most of the time I peel them, slice them in bite sized pieces and braise them in water and a bit of olive oil until tender. They are great beside a breast of chicken or steak or even pork chops.
OVEN ROASTED BEET RISOTTO
Beets are a strengthening vegetable. A good source of both instant and slow-release energy, this recipe is perfect for anyone recovering from extreme physical exertion or illness, and just plain tasty for those who are not. Oven roasting brings out a concentrated rich flavour, sweet yet earthy.
- 1 lb. Beets, any variety
- 1 Onion, chopped fine
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 cups Arborio rice or any short grain brown rice
- 1/4 cup dry white wine or water
- 5 cups vegetable stock, heated
- 1 small handful chives, finely snipped or onion tops
- 1 small handful flat-leaf parsley, minced
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
Wash the beets. If using purple beets, leave the skin on. If they are the red, yellow or chioggia variety, peel and quarter the beets. Season with salt and place in a large pan. Put in a 425 degree oven. Roast uncovered until they are tender, about 40 minutes to one hour depending on the size of the beet. Allow to cool, then rub off skin of the purple variety.
Dice beets in small pieces. Fry the onion gently in half the butter, until soft. Add the beets and cook for a few minutes. Add the rice and stir until the grains are all coated with butter. Pour in the wine or water and boil rapidly for a minute or two to reduce it. Add the hot stock, a ladle-full at a time, stirring until absorbed. Continue until all the stock is used and the rice still has some crunch – about 25 minutes. Stir in the remaining butter, the herbs and the parmesan. Leave to stand, covered for 2 minutes to enhance the flavors before serving.
Mmmmm Enjoy! L.L