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Beets and Beet Greens

Bunch of Beets

Nutritious, Flavorful Green

This nutritious, flavorful green is a welcome addition from the garden. The small beets attached to the greens are sweet and add variety to the vegetables served. Beets are good tasting fresh and canned, unlike some other vegetables.

Fresh beets are higher in nutritive value than their canned counterparts. Beets are low in calories, 44 calories for a 3/4 cup serving, and high in vitamin C and folate. The greens of the beet are also high in vitamin C, with 30 percent of the recommended daily allowance (in 1/2 cup cooked greens), and are high in vitamin A. Forty-six percent of a person's daily requirement for vitamin A is contained in 1/2 cup of cooked greens.

Beets also contain potassium, calcium and iron.

Fresh beet greens are one of the first vegetables in Maine markets from the summer harvest.

Selecting Beets

Beets are available throughout the garden season. Early in the season, choose, from your garden or local farmer, the tender greens with small, immature beets (less than 1-1/2 inch in diameter). Beet greens are a delicacy and are cooked with the beet attached. As the season progresses, look for medium-sized beets that are smooth, hard and have a deep red color. Larger beets, over 2-1/2 inches in diameter, may be tough, stringy and have a woody core. Avoid soft, bruised or shriveled beets.

Storing Beets

Mature beets can be stored without the tops for up to three weeks in a plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper. Leave the beets unwashed when storing. When cutting tops from beets, leave at least 1/2 inch of the stems and at least two inches of the tap root on the beets. If you cut closer to the beet, the color will bleed from the vegetable during cooking. If the tops are tender and you want to use them, store them separately, and use as soon as possible.

Preparing Beets

Washing Beets Wash beets gently before cooking, but do not pare or trim them. Breaking the skin, cutting the tap root or trimming the stem too closely will cause the color to bleed from the beets. Once cooked, run cold water over the beets to cool, and then peel by slipping the skin from them. Serve sliced, quartered, in strips, or, if small, whole. Adding an acid, such as vinegar or lemon juice, while cooking will keep them bright red.

Baking, boiling, steaming or microwaving are cooking methods to use for beets. The most popular preparation method is to boil beets. Depending on the size and age of the beets, cooking time for boiling whole beets covered in water is between 40 minutes and two hours.

One pound of small whole beets can be microwaved in 1/4 cup of liquid in 10 minutes. Baking beets whole takes longer, between 1-1/2 to two hours, but more nutrients are retained.

Some favorite ways to serve beets are seasoned with herbs, pickled and in soups or salads.

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