Friday, July 8, 2011

Farm Fresh: The Beet!

Welcome to my Summertime Foodie Friday series: Farm Fresh!

I decided to take advantage of the abundance of the Summer growing season by featuring a new unusual vegetable each week. These vegetables may be ones you've had before, or ones you've heard of but never dared to taste. Or, they may be ones you had no idea how to prepare to eat. I'll include a bit of information about the vegetable, a simple recipe, and a linky so you can share your favorite recipe featuring the vegetable of the week. The link collections will be open for a full month after I feature a vegetable, so you can experiment with it and then come back here and link up your successes!

The series will run through the end of August, and I'll publish a post every week or two. So far, I've featured artichoke, kale, eggplant, and this week, the beet!

If there's a vegetable you'd like to see featured in the series, or if you have a preparation tip to add, please let me know in the comments. And don't forget to link up your beet recipes below!

Red/purple and golden beets
The beet is best known in the purple (garden beet variety) but there are lots of kinds of beets. The leafy vegetable chard is a type of beet, as well as the sugar beet, which is important in the production of table sugar. (From Wikipedia's Beet article.)

What we usually think of as a beet is really the beet root, but the beet is one of those vegetables that doesn't have any parts that are inedible. The young leaves and stems can be eaten raw in salads, more mature leaves can be stir fried (and used in dishes as you would spinach or kale), and the bulbous root can be cooked and eaten, too. It is a very useful vegetable!

I have to admit, I didn't used to like beets. I had an early childhood aversion experience with beets at a church dinner once (it involved pickled beets and me mistaking them for slices of jellied cranberry sauce) so I wrote them off way back then. When I was first living with my partner, we had a CSA delivery, and beets came in it one day. I told him, that I hated beets, but he insisted that I try them again, fresh (not pickled). I humored him, and tried one tiny little bite of beet, which he had steamed. To my great surprise, I found I liked them!

One issue with red/purple beets is the staining factor. When you remove the outer skin before cooking, the red juices will leak out more, and likely stain your fingers. My partner likes to peel and slice beets under a very small stream of water, so as to wash the juice away as it's leaked out. This method is quite effective at preventing the juice from staining his fingers. Another thing I have to mention is that eating beets can alter the color of your eliminations. People whose bodies can't break down betacyanin (responsible for the red pigment in red/purple beets) will have red urine after eating them. Many others will notice that their bowel movements turn red after consuming beets. This is nothing to be alarmed by! OK, now that we got that out of the way....

I think that thinking of them like carrots is a good way to approach a beet. They have a similar combination of sweetness and bitterness, and they're good cooked in some of the same ways. I think beets generally taste better in sweeter preparations rather than savory (though I know many would disagree with me on that).

My favorite way to cook beets is still the way I had them that first (second) time: steamed (maybe with a little butter on top).

Here's how:
  • Remove the greens and the pointy root parts, and peel the outer layer of your beets:

  • Slice the beets into bite-sized chunks, and place into a steaming basket (inside a large pot and on top of a couple inches of water). My beets were cut into about 1" cubes.

  • Steam beets covered, over medium-high heat for 5-15 minutes, or until they're tender when poked with a fork. Mine took right around 15 minutes.
    You can see here that the red beet color bled a bit into
    the golden beets, but it didn't make them any less delicious!

I've been joking with Jaymz that this series is turning into How to Make Chips and Fries Out of Unusual Vegetables, because here I am for the third week in a row doing just that! I had a specific request to attempt to make beet chips for this week's recipe (Hi, Amanda!) so I took the recipe she offered and tried making them. I wanted so badly to make the beet chips work, that I ended up making them two different ways!

The prep is the same for both methods:
  • Choose a few (3-4) medium sized beets. The wider/larger they are, the less likely it is that your chips will curl up when you cook them.
  • Peel your beets and cut off both ends (so they're a bit more flat than round).
  • Slice very thinly with a mandolin, probably on the smallest setting. (This is one of those instances when using a gadget like this will come in handy. Uniform thickness—and more importantly in this case, thinness—is quite important for beet chips.) If you slice them at the right angle, you'll get a fun swirly pattern on your chips.
Beet chips in the oven:
  • Lay out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (and, optionally, salt lightly):
  • Bake at 350°F for 15-20 minutes, watching closely so they don't burn. (The chips will still be pliable when they're done, and will firm up and become crispy as they cool down.)
Beet chips in the dehydrator:
  • Lay out the beet slices on the dehydrator trays (and, optionally, salt lightly).
    You can see well here how thinly these are sliced:
    the trays are visible through the beets.
  • Dehydrate at 135°F for about 30 hours, or until they reach your desired level of crispiness.
Daniel loves these beet chips now! They're crispy and a little sweet, and he's been eating them all the time. I don't like them quite as much as the kale chips, but they're pretty good. Though, I must say, that if you don't like the flavor of beets, you probably won't like these chips. I think the flavor is much stronger in both these methods than just eating them steamed.

How do you like to eat beets?


  1. OK, you have done what has been impossible: You have convinced me to try steamed beets. The combo of the two kinds looks very appealing.

    I'm going to the farmer's market today and see if there are other unusual veggies I can try, or perhaps I can even find something to inspire one of your future posts!

  2. @Sharon: Yay! I'm so happy you're going to try them. Please do let me know if you find something you'd like me to feature. I'll try any strange vegetable (at least) once! =)

  3. oh my gosh, I can't believe I didn't think of beet chips!! We buy Terra chips and love them. Much better to make them.
    I love my dehydrater too. We make crazy good dried persimmon when our giant tree produces. yum!
    Another great post!

  4. Now I just need a mandolin!! Thank you so much :). I already really enjoy the beet greens sauteed with garlic, olive oil and lemon so I might go out on a limb and try eating the beet too. But I'm looking forward to trying the chips again! Oh, and I guess I need a dehydrator too.... Thanks again for so much effort :)

  5. I hated the taste of beets until I hid them in a chocolate cake. Now, I'm not to worried about getting them in my CSA box :)

  6. @Amanda: You're welcome! Hope you like them. =)

    @Fresh and Feisty: What a great idea! I added your recipe to the linky. Thank you!

  7. I love beets.I like to saute them with olive oil,then add sliced carrots and lastly the beet greens, a lovely side dish served with a dallop of yoghurt.Second recipe is a salad, boil the beetroots until tender, then chop. Mix with a sauce consisting of olive oil, salt and garlic,yum yum :)

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