Inner Beauty: Beets of All Varieties Can Improve Your Health
A fresh-picked beet is far from glamorous. I’ve spent many Augusts plucking the veggies from my grandfather’s garden, following the leafy greens and bright stalks that signal where the bulbs (or taproots) are buried. We retrieve the soil-crusted treasures from below, their stringy roots dangling. But, after a quick rinse and slice of a knife, the true beauty of beets is revealed.
Red or table beets bring a warm magenta shade, while golden beets offer a sunnier hue. Chioggia or candy stripe beets, shown here, easily boast the loudest appearance but have the softest flavor profile. “A lot of people are turned off by the hearty flavor of a traditional beet, but the candy stripe beets are milder,” says Evan Diamond, produce manager at East End Food Co-op. “You can slice them to dip in hummus, or shave them fresh over a salad.”
The grocery sources all three varieties of beets — some with tops and some without — from local growers nine months out of the year. “While they can be rather difficult to grow in the heavy clay soils of Western PA, mixing sand into your garden soil will give the beets a better chance at developing the larger roots you’re used to seeing in produce departments,” Diamond says. “In 50-60 days, you can be harvesting your own beets.”
“It’s a great seeding crop because you can harvest off the greens until you’re left with larger taproots,” he adds. The tops, which reveal beets’ relativity to chard, can be served fresh in a salad or juiced for a boost of Vitamin C. The taproots offer endless creativity in the kitchen — from pickled or pureed, to roasted or raw.
Rich in manganese and flavonoids, the ruby beauties benefit our circulatory systems and cardiovascular health. Diamond says raw beets have the highest nutritional content, as some is broken down during cooking. But even boiled beets are “definitely an excellent food” — proving they not only get our hearts aflutter, but also keep them pumping.
East End Food Co-op, 7516 Meade St., East End. 412.242.3598.