In homage to the dropping temperatures of autumn: beets! They thrive in cooler growing seasons- their red and yellow bulbs rooting earnestly underground as their vibrant foliage reaches sunward.
There is a widespread feeling about beets. Some love their versatility in color, texture (dependent on the way in which it is prepared), and their sweet, earthy flavor. Others are weirded out by beets. Perhaps because it can make your pee turn pink or because they think it tastes like a forkful of dirt. A handful of your students might already be beet advocates, and this perhaps may give them some new ideas of ways to use them. A lot of your students might hate the idea of them, but beets can be fun and maybe their interest in them can be spurred by some of their colorful uses.
Let’s start with the basics.
We have red beets; these are our classic earthy beets with a strong, unique and sweet flavor. In class, cut this beet open, drop it in hot water or smear it across an old t-shirt… show them how the bright red color bleeds. Golden beets are similar in flavor, though are less earthy and slightly sweeter, and as expected, have a vibrant yellow color. Chioggia beets look candy stripped. They have pink and white circles that can be seen when cutting through the center and don’t differ much in taste from the like. Cut one Chioggia width wise and one lengthwise and show your students how the candy striped pattern will look different dependant on how it is cut. And wait! The leafy greens! Let your students know that they can eat these too. Beet greens have a similarity to chard in texture and flavor.
Beets are packed with manganese, magnesium, potassium, iron, phosphorous, copper, folate and B and C vitamins. Beets are also a great source of fiber and have no saturated fat. With such vivid color in the vegetable comes a great deal of phytonutrients, which have proven to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and detoxification properties. So what does this mean? It means healthy hearts, livers and overall immune systems. Beets can help fight off cancer and the every day cold.
As mentioned before, when cooking with beets, it’s not uncommon for it to stain your hands or clothes. Unlike golden beets, red beets bleed their red color when cooking and will turn your recipe pink. Because of this, beets are often used as a food dye. . . or even as lipstick, hair dye and tie dye! Tell your students that it is a certain pigment called betalains that give beets their bright colors. There are two types of betalains- betacyanins, which create the red and purple shades, and betaxanthins, which are responsible for the orange and yellow colors. Having your students use latex gloves and aprons are a good idea.
So what do you do with them?
Roast them, steam them, boil them, throw them in a smoothie or a hummus purée, cut them up and eat them raw or make chips out of them! Add a little olive oil and seasoning and you’re good to go! The leaves too; they can be steamed, sautéed, thrown in soups, smoothies, salads, or even used as boat for lettuce wraps.
This first recipe is super simple and can be used in so many ways. Eat them as a snack (hot or cold), toss them in a salad or serve it as a side dish.
Simply Steamed beets
- 2 medium sized beets
- 1 tbs olive oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Option to add chopped garlic, fresh basil and oregano.
- Remove the taproot and stems from the beet. Set the stems aside for another use.
- Cut the beet into quarters
- Fill the steamer with 2 inches of water. Add the beets to the steamer when water is at a light boil and cover. When beets are tender enough to easily insert a fork through the beet (about 15 minutes).
- Peel the skin off the beets using a paper towel.
- Transfer beets to a bowl and mix in the olive oil and seasonings.
Roasted Cauliflower Tacos with a Creamy Beet and Apple Slaw
Yield: 12 tacos
For the slaw:
- 1/4 cup Chioggia beets, julienned (or red beet, but keep in mind that the red beets will make the slaw pink)
- 1/4 cup golden beets, julienned
- 1/4 cup green apple, julienned
- 1/4 cup beet greens, chiffonade
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and julienned
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- 1 tbs dill, finely chopped
- 1 tsp orange zest, finely grated
For the cauliflower:
- 1 head cauliflower, chop into bite sized florets
- 3 tbs olive oil
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp salt
Toppings and base:
- 12 corn tortillas
- 2 avocados, sliced
- (optional) 2 jalapenos, seeded and finely diced
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Mix together the olive oil, cumin, coriander and salt in a bowl.
- Toss in the cauliflower florets.
- Once they are coated, place them on a sheet pan and roast until crispy (about 30 minutes).
- While that is roasting, mix the yogurt, limejuice, orange zest and dill in a bowl for the slaw.
- Add the beets, apples and carrots to the bowl and delicately mix the ingredients together.
- When the cauliflower is almost done roasting, lightly heat corn tortillas on a dry pan until warm (this will help to keep them from breaking).
- Remove the tortillas from the pan and lay a strip of the slaw across the center of the tortilla. Then add the cauliflower and top each taco with jalapeños (if desired) and a slice of avocado. Serve and eat.