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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April- Vegetable of the Month- Beets

I have decided to have a different topic of the month each month. This month there will be a vegetable of the month (beets), but sometimes I will have and herb of the month, flower of the month, a particular variety of the month and sometimes maybe even item of the month. I will share with you my knowledge of the vegetable, flower or herb, how to cook with it, its health benefits, how it is grown, and any other interesting info about the particular topic.

So for this month the vegetable of the month is Beets:
  • This year we will be growing the flowing varieties of beets:
Forono Beet: This will be our first year growing this variety. It is a red colored beet with a cylindrical shape. Which means that it has a long shape compared to the common round beets that you usually see. I wanted to grow this variety because I think these would be very easy to slice, and could get many more slices from these compared to the normal kinds.

Perfected Detroit Beets: This is an improved variety of Detroit Dark Red Beets. This is the kind that we have usually grown in the past. Very good variety of beet!

Detroit Dark Red: We wanted to try the common variety this year just to see how in compares to the improved version.

I am also thinking about growing another type of beet that is entirely different from the traditional dark red beets, maybe a golden beet, white or Chioggia (striped beet). It all depends on if I will have the room to add another variety. We will see.

I did pick up a packet of golden beets from the garden center the other day (you know what happens when I go there, I buy everything, I just can't control myself). There where not too many seeds in the package but I figured, why not give them a try to see what they are like. If I like them this year I can order a large pack next year. So I should have a very limited supply of golden beets available probably in the middle of the season.
  • We usually have beets available the whole market season. This is one of the few vegetables that can be grown for most of the season. We usually make continuous planting throughout the our whole season. I does pretty well in most conditions, and is not very demanding.
  • Cooking Beets: We have a lot of customers that like beets and would like to buy some of our beets, but do not know how to cook them. So last year I typed up instructions on how to cook beets, and had them available for anyone who asked how to prepare them. So here are my instructions on how to cook beets:
Rinse off beets. Leave on roots and remove all except 1-2 inches of the tops. Cover with water, and boil covered for approximately 40 to 50 minutes or until tender when pricked with a knife. (Cooking time will depend on size of beets, larger beets will take longer to cook then smaller ones.) When done place beets in cool water until you are able to handle them. While they are still warm, the skins should slide off easily, by rubbing them off with your hands. Beware of the red from beets, can stain easily. Beets can also be cooked the same way in a pressure cooker, which will cut the cooking time in half.

Here is a great link with lots and lots of recipes for beets: Just Vegetable Recipes

  • Using Beet Tops: Make sure you keep your beet tops, because that make a very good cooked green. We use to just throw ours out, until one day our neighbor found out and yelled at us for doing so! We once used ours to make stuffed shells instead of using spinach since we did not have any spinach at that time but had beet greens. It was very good and I wish I had written down the recipe so that I could share it with you, but I didn't. I will have to make it again and make sure I write it down this time and take pictures. You can use the tops like you would other cooked greens, and can be substituted for spinach in many recipes.
I plan to use beet top greens during the summer in my bagged salad mix, since it is a green that can be grown when it is warm, in the middle of the summer. Most lettuces will blot (or go to seed) and become bitter when it gets too warm, but beet greens will be fine in the heat. My summer greens mix can be used for either a salad or as cooked greens, which ever you prefer. Some other greens that may be included in the mix are collards, baby swiss chard, kale, arugula and possibly some others.
  • Storing Beets: I have found that the best way to store beets is in a bag in one of your fridge. If you leave the in the open (not in a bag) they may not even last a week before becoming soft. I put mine in a regular plastic shopping bag. You can usually keep the tops on for at least a week (check on it regularly), if you are going to store the beets for longer than that you should remove the tops, since they will not last as long as the beets themselves. You can always remove the tops and keep them separate from the beets in case the start to go bad and you do not notice, this way your beets will be fine. The beets themselves can last for months is stored properly, jus about as long as carrots, which also can be stored for a long time.
  • Beets Health Facts: Beets are a very healthy vegetable and can benefit your health in many ways. They have been said to help prevent birth defects, heart disease, and some types of cancer.
These are just some of the good websites that I have found that explain health benefits of beets:
Nutrition Facts Analysis for Cooked Beets- From NutritionData.com
Nutrition Facts Analysis for Cooked Beet Greens- From NutritionData.com
The World's Healthiest Foods- Lot of good info here.
RawVeg.Info- Lists the different health benefits of beets, and gives links to read more about each benefit.
How Stuff Works calls beets a "Natural Weight Loss Food", read more about at this link.
The Many Health Benefits of Beets- Good site that describes each way that beets can help your health

There are so many more sites that explain the benefits of beets that I just couldn't list them all!

So as you can see beets are a very healthy vegetable. I makes a great side dish, and addition to almost any meal. It is a dual purpose vegetable because you can both the greens and the actual beet root. And as I have already mentioned it can be grown anytime throughout the growing season, so we should have them available at every market.

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