Beets! Beets! Beets!
by Paulette Millis
Beets are a member of the same family as Swiss chard and spinach. They have been cultivated since the 3rd or 4th Century, BC, and were used only for medicinal purposes. The edible beet root we know today was unknown. In 1810 the beet began to be cultivated for sugar in France and Germany, and it was known that one variety was grown in the US in 1806.
Sugar beets are yellowish-white and are widely cultivated in Canada. The garden beet ranges from purplish-red to bright vermilion to white but most common is red. This red is so penetrating that we have come to use the term “red as a beet“. Of course this redness also limits the use of the beet, despite its pleasant sweet taste and firm texture, because everything it touches turns red! For example, ordinary “Hash“ becomes “Red Flannel Hash“ when beets are added. It really is too bad that beets can’t keep their colour to themselves as they would be so much more versatile.
There are four commonly cultivated varieties of beets: 1) garden beet; 2) leaf beet or Swiss chard, of which only the leaves and stalks are eaten; 3) sugar beet, a major world source of sugar; and 4) the mangold, a major livestock feed, grown extensively in Europe. The sugar beet is derived from mangolds and has long white roots. It is easier and cheaper to make sugar from these than it is from sugar cane and impossible to distinguish the difference between raw beet sugar and raw cane sugar. They are identical in appearance and chemical composition.
Beets are easy to grow. My personal favourite is the cylinder beet. I find it is much less likely to grow woody when left in the ground until late fall, so it remains tender and sweet.
Beets tend to germinate slowly. I learned that placing the seeds between two sheets of wax paper and crushing them with a rolling pin greatly sped up this process. It is important to thin the beet plants early in their life. Beets take very little space and are easy to grow.
NUTRITIONAL AND MEDICINAL INFORMATION
Beets are great for adding minerals to the diet, as well as being very beneficial for the liver and gall bladder. They are also good for the eliminative, the digestive, and the lymphatic systems.
Beets are high in vitamin A, and contain vitamins B and C, iron, calcium, and phosphorus. Dr. Bernard Jensen states that beet juice combined with blackberry juice is a good blood builder.
Beets are very easy to digest and are also very low in calories. Use beets often for their high nutrient and fibre content.
Beets are available year round. When buying them look for small or medium size with smooth, firm flesh and a deep red colour. Large beets may be woody inside. The tops should be fresh looking with no wilt, although wilted tops do not affect the root.
Beet roots store well in a root cellar over winter or in the fridge for three weeks. Cooked beets keep, covered, for one week in the fridge.
Baby beets are tender and sweet, and delicious raw or cooked. Mature beets are wonderful shredded raw in salads or as a garnish, e.g. on cottage cheese or potato salad. One of my favourite raw salads, with beets, is found in the recipes at the end of this article. Try making raw beet salads with dried powdered horseradish or with sauerkraut. Beets may be steamed whole, baked, or diced and steamed. Serve them plain with butter and celtic sea salt. Beets make a wonderful vegetable soup combined with other root veggies and onion, the most popular being Borscht. (See the “Vegetable Borscht“ recipe below.) I also like to shred several beets at a time, enough to store some in a closed container in the fridge for making quick sauteed shredded beets (recipe below).
To cook whole beets, wash well, cut off the tops, leaving an inch or two above the crown, then steam or boil until tender. This may take 30 minutes to an hour, depending on size. Save the cooking water for soups or in vegetable drinks.
Whole beets may be baked. Prepare as above, place in a pan and bake until tender—up to three hours for large beets.
Cook beet greens as other greens by chopping and steaming lightly. Great with butter and salt. The leaves may also be used by stuffing them like cabbage leaves, or shredding them and adding to fried rice a couple of minutes before removing rice from the heat.
Beets are a great addition to fresh juices. I like to add one half beet to my carrot and celery juice. Look for recipes for fresh juice in juicing recipe books.
You may freeze or dry extra beets to store. Precook until tender, peel, dice, and package for the freezer, or shred and dry in a dehydrator. Freeze extra greens by blanching briefly, immersing in ice cold water, draining, and packaging. Pack greens flat to make chopping easier before using. Great added to soups.
If you have a root cellar, do not wash or trim beet roots. Leave a two inch top on the beets and pack in sand or other damp material and they will keep through the winter.
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp celtic sea salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
2 or 3 cups cooked beets, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tbsp caraway seeds
Combine the vinegar, water, honey, salt, and pepper in a saucepan. Bring to the boiling point. Cook for 5 minutes. Cool. Put the beets into a deep bowl and pour the dressing over them. Sprinkle with the caraway seeds. Cover the bowl. Let stand at room temperature for about 4 hours or refrigerate overnight. Drain before serving.
Even beet haters like these!
Place a dab of butter or coconut oil in a frying pan. Add shredded beets and stir to coat. Add a bit of chicken broth. Cover and let simmer for 3 to 5 minutes depending on the amount of beets you have. Do not allow to stick to the pan. Add a bit more butter or coconut oil and celtic sea salt to taste. Stir to coat. Serve.
A raw beet and vegetable salad that keeps well in the fridge!
2 cups beets, finely shredded
1 cup carrots, finely shredded
1 cup kohlrabi, or turnip, or celeriac, or parsnip,
2 cloves minced garlic
1 stalk celery, minced
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
Mix the above ingredients well.
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp flax, hemp, or Udo’s oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp basil or 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 tsp oregano or 1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano
dash of celtic sea salt
Mix together and add to veggies. Combine well and store in fridge.
5 cups shredded beets
4 chopped onions
1 cup shredded carrots
2 cups shredded cabbage
2 cups diced potatoes
garlic cloves, diced
Put all in a large pot. Cover with pure water or vegetable stock to 1“ above veggies. Bring to a boil, then simmer about 20 minutes.
chicken-like seasoning (optional)
2 tbsp celtic sea salt or to taste
10 oz tomato paste
Stir well. Serve topped with yogurt, cream, or butter. Use soy creamer or ghee for dairy-free. Great with cornmeal muffins. Variation: add pieces of cooked chicken for a heartier soup, or a combination of cooked legumes and grains for a complete meal. Freezes well.
BEET AND HORSERADISH RELISH****
Mix one part grated cooked beets and one part grated raw horseradish, or other preferred proportions. Add as much cider vinegar as the mixture will absorb. Some people like to add a little honey also. This keeps refrigerated for about a month.
16 tiny cooked, peeled beets
celtic sea salt
freshly ground pepper
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese.
Put the beets into a saucepan. Season with salt and pepper. Add the cream. Cook over low heat, stirring carefully, until the beets and the cream are heated through. Stir in the parmesan cheese and cook until the cheese is melted and the cream thickened. Serve very hot.
POLISH STYLE BEETS
FOR ROAST MEATS****
3 cups grated, cooked beets
1 medium onion, minced
3 tbsp butter (use ghee for dairy free)
2 tbsp whole grain flour
1 cup meat broth or pan drippings
1–2 cloves crushed garlic
4–6 tbsp lemon juice or wine vinegar
Grate about 3 cups of cooked beets and make a sauce for them as follows:
Saute the onion in butter until limp. Stir in flour and continue stirring until the flour browns lightly. Add meat broth or drippings mixed with water. When thickened to a sauce, add the beets and the garlic. Simmer a few minutes and flavour with lemon juice or wine vinegar before serving.
BEETS WITH LEMON SAUCE*****
Scrub beets. Steam whole with skins on till tender.
Peel beets. Dice or slice thin.
Combine with lemon sauce as given below.
1 cup beet juice or water
2 tbsp arrowroot powder
1/4 tsp celtic sea salt
Let simmer until clear and thick. Remove from heat. Add:
2 tbsp lemon juice and 1/2 tsp grated organic lemon rind
2 tbsp honey
Add beets and stir lightly.
*taken from Nutrition, Cooking and Healing, Paulette Millis
**taken from Eat Away Illness, Paulette Millis.
***adapted from The Unabridged Vegetable Cookbook
****adapted from The Kitchen Gardener’s Companion
*****adapted from Ten Talents
References: Foods That Heal, Bernard Jensen, MD; The Unabridged Vegetable Cookbook, Nika Hazelton; The Kitchen Gardener’s Companion, Pat Katz; Ten Talents, Frank and Rosalie Hurd.
The above information regarding nutritious food is not intended to replace any instruction from medical or health professionals.
Paulette Millis lives and works
in Saskatoon as a counsellor and nutritional consultant.
Her cookbook, Nutrition, Cooking
and Healing, is available in health food stores, or
by calling Paulette at (306) 244-8890, or visit www.geocities.com/paulettemillis.