Beta vulgaris var. vulgaris
June - September
When one mentions beets, the questionable red pickled variety on the Sunday brunch salad bar usually comes to mind. But as Dani Lind shows in her Cooking Fresh article, “Beets: Making Up for Lost Time,” beets are far from boring. There’s the common red beet that tastes earthy and subtly sweet when roasted; golden beets with a brighter, summery flavor; white ones which are decorative but not very tasty; and Chioggia beets with their alternating white and red rings and an almost candy-like flavor when roasted.
Roasting is the most favored way to cook beets as it brings out their inherent sweetness. Choose organic when possible since the nutrient content and flavor of root vegetables is especially benefitted by nutrient-rich, live soil. Beets will actually pick up the flavors of the soil, and, conversely, chemicals added to the soil.
If you don’t want red-stained fingers at the end of the night, wear kitchen gloves when handling. Or rub lemon juice on stains, which will usually take off stains that haven’t “set in” yet.
Nutrition: The flesh, skin and leaves are all full of vitamins (especially vitamin C and folate), minerals (especially potassium, manganese, magnesium and iron) and phytonutrients that have antioxidant, detoxification and anti-inflammatory properties. The less cooked and processed the beet, the better they retain nutrients.