Beets are rich with vitamins and minerals. Photograph courtesy of Flickr user B.D.’s world.
Beets—those richly hued root vegetables most often seen in salads—lately have been popping up in lots of different forms on local restaurant menus and are earning fans for their nutritional content.
Thanks to beets’ staining potential and slightly slimy texture, “people have a love or hate relationship with them,” says Elise Museles, a local nutritional health and wellness coach. If you fall into the latter camp, it might be time to give them another try. Beets contain a wealth of nutrients, and can be added to anything from salads to side dishes to cocktails.
Why they’re good for you: Beets are a great source of the phytonutrients betalains, which have anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties, says Museles. They also help the body eliminate toxins. In addition, beets are high in vitamins B and C, calcium, and magnesium, and the greens are high in folic acid. (Note: Consumption of beets can sometimes cause urine or stool to become a red-pink color, but it’s nothing to be concerned about.)
How to prepare them: First, rinse the beets with cold water. You can cut off the leaves, but don’t throw them away, says Museles—they’re nutritious, too, and can be sautéed like kale or Swiss chard. The skin can be taken off with a peeler, but Museles recommends cooking with the skin on because it peels off easily afterward. (If you want to prevent staining your hands, wear latex gloves while handling the veggies.)
How to cook them: Beets can be roasted, boiled, or eaten raw. If this is your first time cooking beets, try boiling them for 20 to 30 minutes. To roast beets, Museles says to cook them at 375 degrees with the greens removed. They can be cooked wrapped in tinfoil or uncovered up to 45 minutes (to check for doneness, stick a knife into the biggest beet—if it slides out easily, the beets are ready to eat). Or simply grate a raw beet to add crunch to a salad.
Where to eat them in Washington: “I love the Path Valley beets and ricotta salata side dish at Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak,” says Museles. “I get it every time I go to dinner there.” The dish consists of three varieties of local heirloom beets and house-made sheep’s milk ricotta.
The restaurant also has a beet cocktail on its drinks menu called We Got the Beet, which includes tequila, Averna, lime juice, and beet juice.
The recently opened Purée Juice Bar in Bethesda offers shots of beet juice, which can be added to any drink. Museles loves adding it to the Mean Lemonaid, or drinking it straight. Owner Amy Waldman recommends adding it to a green juice.