A vegetable that can't be beat for taste, nutrition

Oct. 01, 2013 @ 05:49 PM

The first of our fall beet crop was harvested at Windcrest Farm this week for market. Both a fall and a spring crop, beets are fast growing, easy to grow in the home garden and give us not only a nutritious, versatile root vegetable but wonderful greens also. Beets include red, gold, white, and striped varieties.

We grow two varieties — Red Ace, a deep red “traditional” beet, and Chioggia Guardsmark, a pink striped beet that resembles a pepper-mint candy when sliced. If you have only eaten boiled beets or beets from a can, it’s time to sample the wonderful flavors and texture of a fresh beet. Beets contain an abundance of natural sugars. In fact, there’s a good chance that the package of refined sugar on the grocery store shelf has come from a sugar beet crop rather than a sugar cane crop.

Beets can be direct-sown or transplanted into warm garden soil. The roots mature in approximately 50 days and in general, cool weather produces the best beet color. Beet leaves can be harvested without pulling the entire plant and will continue to produce tasty greens long into the season. The greens can be used raw in salads or made into a pesto. They can also be  sautéed, steamed, boiled or added to soups.

The deep color of beets signal the wide range of nutrients it contains: vitamins A, B1, B2, B6 and C as well as choline, folic acid, iodine, manganese, potassium, iron, calcium, copper and phosphorus. Nitrates in beets open blood vessels and increase blood flow. The lutein and zeaxanthin in beets support good eye health.

Select beets that are firm and have fresh, dark leafy tops. Older beets will feel spongy and have yellowing leaves. Beets can be stored in the refrigerator for up to ten days. The outer skin on the beet can be removed with a vegetable peeler. No need to removed the skin if you are roasting beets as the skins will slip off easily after roasting.

Ideas for including beets in your diet

Delicious and creative recipes for the following dishes can be easily found by searching the internet for the following:

Roasted Beet SaladQuinoa Salad with Roasted Beets, Chick Peas and Orange (or use rice or pasta as a substitute for quinoa)Beet Greens Pesto with PastaBeet SmoothiesBeet ChipsWant to learn more about cooking farm fresh vegetables and local meats? Join us for our next On the Farm Cooking Class with Culinary Expert Heidi Billoto on Sunday, Oct. 6th. Contact mroberts@WindcrestOrganics.com for more information.


• Mary Roberts and Ray Tarlton are owners and managers of  Windcrest Farm, a USDA Certified Organic farm and greenhouse in Monroe, NC . Visit www.WindcrestOrganics.com for more information about plants, produce and classes. Facebook: Windcrest Farm Organics