Tuesday, May 17, 2011

In defense of a certain garden vegetable

If you watch the Office, you know that the shmucky, butt of all jokes is Dwight Shrute.  He’s not only the office brownnoser, he’s a proud owner of a beet farm.  Beets seem to add to the comedy of his character and punctuate his pathetic life.  Well I’m here to come to the defense of a certain garden vegetable. 

These are beets:
Bulbous and burgundy. 
You probably already have an opinion of beets stemming from a horrible childhood memory. Get over it.
How do they taste? Well, beet roots have a natural sugar to them – they are sweet and earthy. Cooked, their texture is like that of a cooked carrot.   

Unlike some other red plants, all parts of the beet are edible. Beet roots, as you can probably guess by their vibrant color, are rich in nutrients. Most notably, beets are high in folate, manganese, potassium, fiber and vitamin C. Beets are also especially high in anti-oxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties. Because of this powerful combination, some research suggests that consumption of beets reduces risk of some cancers. Beet greens are also edible and contain large amounts of vitamins K and A, along with large amounts of anti-oxidants.
 When at the store or farmer’s market, choose beets that are small and firm with unblemished skin and bright green leaves with no sign of wilting. Avoid large beets which have a hairy taproot as they tend to have a tough, woody center. Smaller beets will be sweeter and more tender.  Once you’ve brought them home, if you’re using the greens, use them quickly or cut them off a couple of inches above the roots. 
My husband and I grow hundreds of beets each year and have just started to harvest our spring crop. We pickle and can a good percentage of the beets so that we can use them in salads and give as gifts throughout the year.  In North Texas, you can grow beets twice a year and get great results.  All you need is a plot of sunny, well amended soil, some funky looking seeds and a watering can. 
So, I hope that I’ve convinced you to try these blushing beauties again.   If you have any questions about how to prepare or grow these delicious and nutritious beets, leave a comment with your questions!

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