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Last Chance Foods: Beets

Friday, November 20, 2009

For those who grew up with Nickelodeon in the early '90s, beets might bring to mind cartoon character Doug Funnie's favorite British rock band The Beets and their anthem "Killer Tofu." With lines like "Fast food feels fuzzy/Cause it's made from stuff that's skuzzy," the song was ahead of its time in encouraging kids to eat healty.

Out near Hook Mountain in Nyack, N.Y., Dr. Pamela Yee and her husband, Charles Paolino, get up close and personal with beets of different sort. The two Manhattan-based physicians grow two types beets on their 1/8-acre micro-farm. Hook Mountain Growers practice bio-intensive farming, which means that almost every inch of the ground is planted, and once a plant is harvested, another takes its place in the soil. Their beet plants grow alongside brussel sprouts and onions.
Dr. Pamela Yee
Yee, who is an internist specializing in nutrition and holistic medicine, recently spoke with WNYC's Amy Eddings about the health benefits of the root vegetable. The doctor noted that beets are a good source of vitamin C, folate, manganese, potassium and fiber. She added that both the roots and leaves of beets can be used, with the leaves also being very nutritious. Since the plant is related to chard, Yee cooks the leaves in the same way she would chard or spinach.

Paolino and Yee started their farm three years ago, after reading about Path to Freedom, a self-sufficient urban homestead in Pasadena, Calif. "I grew up in Queens and my husband in New Jersey," Yee says. "One of my first blogs was about my grandmother, who grew Chinese squash on a plot in the community garden in Whitestone. I've been growing Chinese long beans, because you can't get them organically." This past year was their first full growing season. Even with the late blight claiming all 100 of their tomato plants, Hook Mountain Growers harvested 1,200 pounds of vegetables.

Eddings asked Yee for no-mess tips for preparing beets, since the vibrantly red variety can easily turn a white kitchen magenta. Yee advised roasting beets in an aluminum packet and then "slipping the skins off" inside the foil. The doctor then uses this recipe, adapted from Mollie Katzen's "The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without," since it uses the entire beet plant.

"Complete Beets"
Serves 4

  • 1 1/2 lbs of beets, roasted until tender (depending on size 45-60 minutes) Complete Beets
  • 2-3 bunches of beet greens with stems
  • 2 Tbs Olive Oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 tsp cider vinegar
  • 1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Roast beets by wrapping them in foil with a small amt of water until tender.  Let cool and slip off skins.  Cut into quarters then crosswise into slices (size and shape is up to you).

    2. Trim and clean beet greens and dry.  Coarsely chop leaves and stems and set aside.

    3. Place a medium sized skillet over medium heat with 1 tsp of olive oil and swirl to coat the pan.  Add 1/4 tsp of garlic then immediately toss in the beets just to quickly coat, about a minute.  Transfer to a bowl and sprinkle with a little salt and mix in the vinegar.  Set aside.

    4. Return the pan to the heat and add remaining olive oil.  Add beet greens and stems and cook medium-high until wilted but still brightly colored frequently tossing with tongs.  Add salt to taste and add remaining garlic.  Cook and toss until wilted, about 3 minutes.

    5. Add beets back in, mixing thoroughly, then transfer to bowl.  Adjust seasoning with additional salt and vinegar, if needed.  Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

    Also, Splendid Table has Elizabeth Schneider's recipe for Baked Scented Beets and Greens. "As a bonus, the cleanup is minimal," she says.

    Here are more recipes for both beets and beet greens:
    Beet Greens Salad
    Alice Water's Marinated Beets Salad
    Mark Bittman's Beets with Garlic-Walnut Sauce

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Last Chance Foods covers produce that’s about to go out of season, gives you a heads up on what’s still available at the farmers market and tells you how to keep it fresh through the winter.

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