It took many years to appreciate their flavor, but now I can’t go long without these brilliantly colored, pungently earthy, yet sweet veggies in my diet. Sliced, diced, sautéed, roasted, grated - there are so many ways to enjoy these nutrient rich roots - and the leaves are pretty delicious too!
Let’s talk about health benefits. Beets (and their greens) are rich in folate, potassium, magnesium, zinc, copper, vitamins A,C, K, lots of antioxidants and they’re anti inflammatory. Their intense coloring comes from chemical compounds known as Betalains - naturally occurring pigments of red violet and yellow orange. More than just visually appealing, Betalains help draw toxins out of the body. Some studies suggest beet juice as a cure for hangover symptoms.
Beets have another super power - they are vasodilators: high levels of Nitric Oxide help broaden your blood vessels so oxygen flows more easily throughout your body. Whoa! Make way for Mrs. Frizzle and the Magic School Bus!
But still, there are beet lovers and beet…rejecters. They are a vegetable that can smell and taste just like the ground they were pulled from. That acute wet soil scent is due to a chemical called GEOSMIN which humans are particularly sensitive to. It’s that just after a rainfall smell (makes me think of summer just typing about it). Theory suggests it’s an early development to help guide us to a water source - wet soil means water nearby! Whatever the reason, we are so highly responsive to it, we can register the scent at a ratio as low as
-according to Jo Robinson, health writer and author of Eating on the Wild Side.
That’s a strength of smell even your favorite candle store couldn’t match!
If you don’t find that scent particularly appetizing - not to worry! Cooking your beets will release the natural sugars (they have the highest concentration of any vegetable) and if you throw in an acid - balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, or give this recipe a try - it will significantly reduce any hint of soil before dinner time.
It all depends on your threshold for dirt!