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Seasonal Eats: Bringin' Mad Beets

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An assortment of market-fresh beets (Heather Parlato/LAist)
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I’ve wanted to write about beets for awhile now, because they’re a cool-season crop that’s available fall, winter and spring here in California. They taste great on their own, highlighting or contrasting from their natural sugar content, and they add bright colors to all kinds of foods. Best known are red beets, but a spin through your local farmer’s market will reveal golden beets and the candy-striped Chioggia, an Italian heirloom, as well.

Beets are closely related to swiss chard and spinach, though beets are better known for the roots than the leaves. Beet greens are entirely edible and quite delicious, with a flavor like swiss chard and a more delicate texture. Go ahead and substitute beet greens for the swiss chard recipes we posted previously, just reduce the cooking time. In fact, if you’re at a famer’s market and see a customer request that the greens be twisted off their bunch of beets, ask if you can have them and take home some free food! Or, if you have a little room for container gardening, consider beet microgreens.

As good as beets can be, I’ve heard a fair share of beet disdain by people who were made to eat plain, mushy canned beets as children and thought that was the extent of their potential. This is a very sad narrative, not least of all because beets have little reason to be in a can in the first place. If you were abused in this fashion, my plea is that you forgive the beet itself, buy it fresh, and give it a second chance. Though beets are higher on the glycemic index than some veggies, their load is only 5 and they’re a great source of Vitamin C, Iron, Magnesium and a good source of dietary fiber, Folate, Potassium and Manganese.