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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Beets

Beets:

Beets are members of the "chenopod" family along with chard, spinach, and quinoa.  Beets are grown mainly for their edible taproots, but the green leafy tops are also edible.    Beets are both sweet and earthy tasting and pair well with other root vegetables as well as tangy sweet fruits like pineapple.

Growing up it occured to me that the word "beets" had pretty much the same sound as the Italian word "pizza".  So, for pizza Italians would put an "a" with the sound of "ah" in front of the word and you would say "a pizz'" leaving off the "a" sound at the end of the word.  Then for the root vegetable we would put a "u" with the sound of "oo" in front of the word beets  to kind of make it Italian .  So you had "a pizza" in the pizzeria and "u beets" at home.  It is kind of silly, but I still laugh about it.  Are we having "a pizz'" or "u beets"?

Beets are rich in fiber both soluble and insoluble. They are also rich in folic acid, calcium, and iron.   The nitrates in beets may help lower blood pressure and help fight heart disease.  Beetroot juice increases blood flow to the brain in older people which may be able to fight the progression of dimentia. Beet juice can help prevent plaque formation and reduces bad cholesterol.  Beets are packed with the mineral silica which helps the body use calcium, and helps control diabetes because it has a medium glycemic index which releases sugars very slowly into the blood thereby keeping sugar levels low while satiating sugar cravings.  As a rich source of nitrates, beets help release nitric oxide into the body widening blood vessels and increasing blood flow to the genitals the same as Viagra does.  Betroot is an excellent source of folate and a good source of manganese, and contains betaines.  Pilot studies on humans have shown betaine may protect against liver disease.   In preliminary research  beetroot juice lowered blood pressure. 

Usually deep red roots are either grilled, boiled, or roasted and served as a cooked vegetable or chilled after cooking and eaten as a salad with oil and vinegar.   The phytonutrient betalain found in beets undergoes very steady loss from food as length of cooking time increases.  Steam beets no more than 15 minutes or roast no more than an hour.   In 10 - 15 per cent of U.S. adults the consumption of beets causes pink urine.   The green leafy portion is most commonly served boiled or steamed in which case it has the taste and texture of spinach.

Beets are available year round fresh and canned.  Peak season for fresh beets is between April and August.   Select beets that are hard with fresh looking tails at the root end.  There should be no cuts in the flesh and the color should be a good deep red.   The tops should be crisp and fresh looking.  Always try to buy beets with the tops on.   Store in the refrigerator with the tops on for up to three weeks.   Beets can be dirty so wash thoroughly, but don't use a brush as their skin in thin.    Always cook beets whole.  Peel and slice only after cooking.  Once cooked run the beets under cold water and the skin will remove easily. 

 Raw beets can be enjoyed in salads or in sandwiches.   Cooked beets can be served with a little butter or lemon juice and pickled and served cold.    Hard boiled eggs can be refrigerated in the liquid left over from pickling beets and allowed to marinate until the eggs turn a deep pink-red color. 

So...........Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.