Welcome to our blog food series “Harvest of the Month.” Every month, we share a seasonal fruit or vegetable, discuss its health properties, and provide a recipe to get you cooking!
Beets are a nutrition powerhouse providing many vitamins and minerals as well as a good source of fiber. Beets have high levels of folate, vitamin C, potassium, and phytosterols, which are known to help lower cholesterol levels. They are also are a great source of the phytonutrient betalain, a pigment that gives beets their deep and beautiful color and is also thought to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Beet juice has been researched for its health benefits and has been shown to increase stamina and help lower blood pressure. This is due to the fact that beets are a rich source of nitrates. Nitrates are converted to nitric oxide in the body and nitric oxide helps to relax blood vessels, improving blood flow.
This month’s Harvest of the Month recipe – kale and beet salad – features beets that have been boiled and tossed in a quick-and-easy dressing. The sweetness of the cloves and the tangy balsamic vinegar in this recipe complements the distinct earthy flavor of the beets. This flavor comes from a compound in beets called geosmin, which is produced by microbes in soil. Other foods with high levels of geosmin are spinach and mushrooms.
Beets are a versatile root vegetable that can be enjoyed in so many ways including steamed, boiled, raw, in soups and grilled. Even the leaves, known as beet greens, are edible and can be used in salads when young, or sautéed like spinach or kale when more mature. Beets are often canned or pickled because their texture and robust flavor work well in processing. A traditional use of beets is in an Eastern and Central European soup called borscht. Grated raw beets are great when used to top a salad. Beets are also fantastic tossed in olive oil and herbs and roasted by themselves or in a mixture of other root vegetables. Roasting beets helps to bring out their sweetness – in fact about half of the world’s sugar is derived from beets!
Stop by any retail area around the University of Vermont Medical Center on Tuesday, March 17 to try a free sample of the kale and beet salad. And for more on beets including recipes, check out the Vermont Harvest of the Month’s website.
Kale & Beet Salad
- 4cupsfresh kale
- 1/4cupbalsamic vinegar
- 1/4tspcaraway seeds
- clove powder
- 1Tbspfresh parsley, chopped
- black pepper
- Place beets in a saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook 20 to 40 minutes (depending on size), or until beets are very easily pierced with a sharp knife. Allow beets to cool in cooking liquid. Peel beets under cold running water by squeezing skins so they slip off. Thinly slice beets and place in a bowl. Add vinegar, caraway seeds, salt, and a pinch of clove powder. Set side for at least one hour in the refrigerator, occasionally mixing.
- Remove stems from kale. Discard stems and slice leaves very thin. Steam over medium-high heat for three minutes. Spread warm greens on serving platter and arrange beets on top. Garnish with parsley and a pinch of pepper.
Bridget Shea, RD, is a clinical dietician at The University of Vermont Medical Center.