Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Persians have cultivated and consumed this healthy and hearty vegetable for thousands of years. Today, beets are grown primarily in the winter and are served on a dinner table at least once per week. Everyone swooned at this fresh, Mediterranean beetroot salad I taught last week at a JMU cooking class. I hope you incorporate this healthy, easy salad into your weekly diet, too.
In Cyprus, beets are so commonplace, there is a particular large grocery store in Nicosia that has an eatery. In the condiments section completely open and free to use (like ketchup, mayo and mustard condiments in most US fast food stores), this store has juicy lemon wedges, olives and beetroot salad to add to any dish you ordered. I love it!
Be careful: beets stain. Wear an apron or old clothes when handling beets. Cleopatra is said to have used this dark red vegetable as a stain for her cheeks and lips (divas existed back then, too). Who could blame a girl for wanting that healthy glow?
What’s the difference between beets and beetroot? We use the terms interchangeably, but probably should’t. Like carrots, beets are a root vegetable that grow in the earth. The greens are seen above ground. And, like carrots, we often toss the beet greens and eat only the roots. Our ancestors certainly did not, for they knew the nutritional value those mighty greens contained.
Beet Greens (or Stems): Beets have long, green stems that are completely edible! Although in the West, we often see them at the market stemless, these fragile, greenish-reddish stems are full of nutrients. They are similar in nutrition to spinach, Swiss chard, kale and other leafy green vegetables, including Vitamins A, C and K, calcium, fiber and iron.
Method for preparing Beet Greens: If you are lucky enough to find beets with their stems attached in the market, preparing them is super easy. Slice off the beetroot from the stem. Rinse carefully, then saute in garlic and some olive oil. Drizzle with sea salt and lemon and enjoy. Simple, effective and it retains most of its nutrients by gently cooking over medium heat.
Nutritional benefits to beets: high in fiber, folate, Vitamin C and beta carotene.. They are naturally sweet and are great for diabetics. They are anti-inflammatory. lower your blood pressure and taste awesome.
Choosing the best beets can be tough: always choose small, hard beetroots and try to get them about the same size so they cook uniformly. I’ve noticed the large beets oftentimes taste fibrous, grainy and take forever to cook (they are sign they have been left in the ground too long).
Mediterranean Roasted Beetroot Salad
- About 5 – 6 firm beetroots (with or without green stems)*
- 3 – 4 cloves of garlic
- Fresh mint (dried works, too)
- Olive oil
- Salt, to taste
- Apple cider vinegar and/or half a juicy lemon
- Rinse the beets and, if they are large, slice them in the middle
- Place them in a pot with enough water to barely cover them. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer for 30 minutes or until all water has been absorbed.
- Meanwhile, chop the garlic and slice the mint.
- Check if beets have been cooked by carefully piercing with a sharp knife. They are fully cooked when pierced easily.
- Run the beets over cold water, allowing them to cool.
- With a knife, carefully peel the beets.Be careful! Beets stain! Wear OLD clothes, an apron, or simply be careful!
- Slice beetroots to bite-sized pieces into a large bowl. Add garlic, mint, salt, olive oil and lemon. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow all flavors to marinate.
I have also seen many variations of the beetroot salad. Many cut up a boiled potato and boiled eggs to make it a complete meal that includes protein (egg), starch (potato) and vegetable (beetroot). It’s extremely versatile and delicious. Give them a try.
Oh – and don’t worry if your next bowel movement comes out red. It’s the beets.
Do you have a beetroot salad you love? If so, please share!
Discover your Inner Aphrodite . . .