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In Defense of Beets...
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In Defense of Beets...

If they’re not your favorite, don’t 'beet' yourself up about it. They can be a polarizing vegetable. 


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, sautĂ©ed, 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 and Root Veggies at Market

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

5 parts per TRILLION!

-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! 




Sources: Fact Retriever - Beet Facts, Just Beet It - Hate Beets? Science Has the Answer, ThoughtCo - Can You Smell Rain?, Food Revolution - Benefits of Beets, Healthy Beeter - Betalain, What Is It?

14 comments on In Defense of Beets...

  • Pinetree Garden Seeds
    Pinetree Garden Seeds — June 05, 2024

    Hi, Jamie! Not to worry, beets can definitely sometimes be quite the feat. If it’s mostly mess you’re trying to avoid, a good place to start could be with a different beet variety (one with less pink/ red flesh) but if red is your only option then there are still ways you can help lessen and prevent the mess! Wearing food-safe gloves is a good place to start to avoid hand-staining, plus washing hands/sinks/cutting boards as quickly as possible after use, to avoid staining those too. If you want to try to contain the beet juices while cooking, cooking them inside of aluminum foil (with some oil and seasonings of your choice) can be a super helpful method – just be sure you open them somewhere safe, like over your sink! :)

  • Jamie George
    Jamie George — June 05, 2024

    I love to pickle beets (from cans) and recently found beet chips at a bulk foods store. My problem is when I have tried to work with fresh beets I just have a mess. And I have tried a couple different ways. Please please let me know your “secrets” and techniques to successfully handle, clean, cook beets without having a mess or cooked beets with the color drained out. I am doing something wrong but want to try again and desperately need help. Please???
    Thank you!!!

  • Jan Woodward
    Jan Woodward — October 18, 2023

    I never miss a morning without my beets.

  • EL
    EL — April 25, 2023

    I love beets (and especially love the geosmin smell/taste (which is actually released by the trillions of microbes in soil). Unfortunately, it seems that the Nitric Oxide in beets that is supposed to be helpful rather than harmful, actually raises my BP. So I have to eat them in small amounts :(

  • Ginger Dunlap
    Ginger Dunlap — April 07, 2023

    I LOVE beets & have grown them successfully for years. Can’t do it anymore no matter what soil I plant the seeds in. 🙁.

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