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Pre Historic Beets

Pre historic Beets

The Widely Popular Beet

Beets have been cultivated since pre-historic times in the Mediterranean area and were originally grown only for their leaves. During the Roman empire, people began to eat the roots as well - and even considered beets to be an aphrodisiac. They even used beets to treat fevers and constipation. Today, beets and beet dishes are still widely popular.

Aphrodite, according to legend, ate beets to retain her beauty.

Americans refer to this root vegetable simply as "beets", but the rest of the world calls it beetroot. Other names for it are table beet or blood turnip. The beet is in the same family as Swiss chard.

Though mostly reddish purple, beets come in white, golden and even candy-striped colors. Betacyanin, the powerful antioxidant that lends beets their deep hue, has cancer-protective effects. A good source of folate, dietary fiber, potassium, manganese and vitamin C, beets are plump with important nutrients. Though they have a sweet taste due to their high natural sugar content, beets only contain 74 calories per half up.

Beet Peak season for beets is June through October. Look for small, firm, round beets with a dark red color and slender tap root. If eating the greens, look for fresh, green leaves. Beets will store unwashed and refrigerated for two to four dayss. Wash gently and cut all but two inches of stem from the beet and keep the root intact. Peel after cooking to prevent the nutrient-rich color from bleeding.

The sweet and verstile beet can be boiled, steamed, roasted or sauteed. Raw or cooked, beets add vibrancy and texture to most any dish. Try grating them into crisp slaws, dicing them into flavorful salads and serving them with a tangy dressing as a side dish.

Loaded with Antioxidants

Like most deep-colored vegetables, beets are loaded with antioxidant phytonutrients. Beets are a good source of folacin and a source of Vitamin C and potassium. Red beets provide Vitamins A and C, calcium and iron, and add fiber to the diet.

Beets Aid Detox

Beets contain a unique mixture of natural plant chemicals (phytochemicals) and minerals that make them a super power in fighting off infection. These also work as blood purifers and liver cleansers, and help boost the body's cellular intake of oxygen. Beets also help stabilize the blood's acid-alkaline balance (pH).

Blood Pressure, Circulation and Inflammation

Beets (and beet root juice) are blood-building herbs that detoxify your blood and renew it with minerals and natural sugars. There may also be substances in beets that aid circulation. Recently, a Greek study found that people with higher intakes of betaine and the B vitamin choline had less inflammation, suggesting that these nutrients may help protect against heart disease and other chronic illnesses.

Other research from Britain has found that drinking two cups of beet juice a day significantly lowered blood pressure in 14 healthy volunteers. Scientists think the nitrates found naturally in beets protect blood vessels and keep them healthy.

Beet juice contains betaine, which stimulates function of liver cells and protects our liver and bile ducts. Beets have been found to build red corpuscles and add tone to blood.

Combined findings on beets suggest that beet root ingestion can be one of the useful means to prevent cancer.

Suggestion: Wrap beets in foil and roast at 400 degrees until a fork pierces easily, about 40 minutes; slip skins off with a knife tip.

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

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.

Tasty Tidbit. Try a good balsamic vinegar on beets.

What Do Beets Go Well With?

Beets pair well with flavorful goat, feta and blue cheeses, nuts and citrus fruits. They are ideal in salads, as a soup or a simple side dish, tossed with olive oil and sprinkled with pepper. Remember, however, hands aren't the only thing beets stain red. Beets can temporarily turn some people's urine a pink or reddish color, a condition called beeturia.

Beet Tidbits

Samuel Butler, in his Notebooks, remarked that "The beet root is a better emblem of modesty than the rose. The color is as fine; it conceals itself from the view more completely; moreover, it is good to eat, and will make excellent sugar." Ironically, Russian ladies, both peasants and high society ladies - used the beet as a rouge for their cheeks, both to keep away mosquitos and to attract the opposite sex.

Garlicky Beet Delight Recipe

6 medium beets
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt to taste

Wash the beets and boil until tender, about 45 minutes (or 20 minutes in a pressure cooker). Remove the skins by running cold water over the boiled beets, and then slipping of their skins. Slice the beets and toss with the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, and salt. Yield: 4 servings

Nutrition information per serving: Calories: 141; Total Fat: 10.3g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 222mg; Total Carbohydrates: 11.6g; Dietary Fiber: 2.2g; Protein: 2g

Beet Chips

Beet chips 8 beets, boiled or roasted until soft, peeled and sliced as thinly as possible
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place the beets, salt and oil in a large bowl and toss until most of both sides of the beets are well coated. Pour the beets in a single layer onto the baking sheets, transfer to the oven, and bake until they are beginning to brown on the edges and are just crisp, about 40 minutes. Set aside to cool and then transfer to a jar or plastic bag for up to 3 days. If they become too moist, simply pop them in a 300 degree oven for about 5 minutes.

Nutrition information: Calories: 98; Fat: 1.5g; Saturated Fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 735mg; Carbohydrates: 19.9g; Dietary Fiber: 4g; Protein: 3.4g

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