Friday, July 15, 2011

Veggie Ventures: Beets

Welcome to the Veggie Ventures series, where we'll take a glimpse
at veggies my husband and I want to grow but have never really eaten!

There doesn't seem to be much middle ground when it comes to beets--it seems people either love 'em or hate 'em, end of story. I wanted to be in the "love 'em" camp, but since I've only ever eaten salad bar beets I couldn't say for sure I'd enjoy them any other way. And Mr. K? He couldn't recall ever eating beets. Meanwhile, I'd already purchased two varieties of beet seeds to try out in our fall garden. Since beets are really two veggies in one (beet greens and the root), I thought these were justified purchases indeed. Now all I had to do was convince Mr. K that we'd love growing and eating beets...

You wouldn't believe how difficult it was for me to find a nice looking bunch of beets that:
1) were fairly uniform in size--for even cookingBeets
2) had fresh and healthy looking greens still attached

I finally found some at our local Fresh Market, but only after some digging. Most of the beet greens were manhandled in their attempt to squeeze as many bunches of beets as possible into their allotted ice-filled area. The smell of dirty, earthy beets on the car ride home prompted me to wash & scrub them thoroughly when I got home. I dried them and stashed them in the fridge for couple of days before I used them. What I didn't know was that I was supposed to cut off the greens and store them separately! During storage, the beet roots sapped moisture from the leaves, leaving them sad and limp.

Needless to say, there weren't many greens left on the beets that weren't on the verge of rotting by the time I finally got around to cooking them. I prepared them simply, giving them a quick saute with a bit of garlic, salt, and pepper. They were delicious and mild, very similar to spinach or other greens.

Don't forget about the greens. Some people grow beets just to harvest the green tops.
To prepare the beet roots, I wrapped each beet in foil and baked them at 350°F for about an hour. I found sources online that listed anywhere from 325°F-400°F for the temps, with varying cook times based on beet size. There isn't a hard and fast rule when it comes to cooking beets; you'll know they're done when a knife slips in and out of the beet with little resistance. Once they cooled a bit I slipped on a pair of kitchen gloves and got to peeling and chopping them. We ate a few pieces as is to get an unbiased opinion on their flavor. They were sweet, with a bit of earthy, irony/metallic flavor (which didn't bother us).  

Did we like them? Sure did! So much so that a few days later we picked up another bunch of beets--this time the gorgeous golden beet, hailed for its sweetness and unlikelyhood of staining everything it comes into contact with. This time I remembered to cut off the greens from the root prior to storage and was rewarded with a nice bunch of greens that stayed healthy looking. I prepared the golden beets in the same manner as the standard (red) beets, but we ended up not liking them. Maybe it we picked up a bad bunch or something, but the goldens were inedibly bitter. Adding more sugar couldn't fix it. What went wrong?

Calling all beet lovers! What's been your experience with golden beets?

Veggie Verdict:
Red beets - YAY - Can't wait to grow these!
Golden beets - NAY - We really, really wanted to like these.  They're so pretty!

Explore the series:
Winter Squash
Acorn Squash
Butternut Squash
Spaghetti Squash


  1. You should try grilling the beets! The grilling really brings out the earthy flavor and the carmelizes the sugar. Once you have beets this way you won't go back to caanned beets.