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We hope you’re hungry!
This summer, we’re highlighting a must-eat-right-now ingredient every week. Now that the fields have had a chance to recover a bit from the spring rains, produce is pouring into the markets, which means that beets are back to sweeten our summer meals.
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Beets | Family: Chenopodiaceae
From the Farmer and Chef: “I didn’t grow up loving beets,” says Mark Guttridge, of Ollin Farms in Longmont, who now says it is his favorite vegetable. “The typical red beet has that earthy aroma and flavor. It is a cool vegetable because the taste is an indication of the soil it is grown in. When picked fresh out of healthy local soil, you can taste it.” Guttridge grows several varieties and likes to slice them on top of baby greens for a quick salad.
Good for You: Beets are packed with folate, which helps builds red and white blood cells, making it a go-to during growth spurts. These roots are also excellent sources of fiber and protein, which is why you’ll see them take center stage in vegetarian dishes. Keep in mind, though, that beets are packed with sugar, meaning that if you are on a low-sugar diet, you should talk to your doctor or nutritionist about whether beets should be a part of your meals.
At the Market: If you’re lucky, you’ll find roots attached to robust leaves (which are maybe even more tasty), but don’t be surprised if your beets have the leaves already cut off. “Being an organic grower, I can’t keep my tops looking good,” says Jacquie Monroe of Monroe Organic Farms. “So I cut them off because the bugs eat them.” Monroe recommends eating the beets within a week, before they soften too much.
Around Town: Ever wonder why so many local menus highlight beets in the summer? It’s because the veggies thrive in the Centennial State’s climate. “Beets are one of the things that do really well,” says Eric Skokan of Black Cat Farm Table Bistro or Bramble & Hare. “That’s evident by our history as a sugar-beet growing state; we are rewarded with really delicious beets.” You’ll often find them roasted and tossed in salads. We’re especially fond of the way Mary Nguyen uses beets in her juices at Olive & Finch (Bonus: Learn to make custom juices at home in this video.)
In Your Kitchen: If you’re like my family, beets are a divisive topic. I love them, having grown up on borscht and pickled beets. My husband? Not so much, which is why I’m always on the lookout for recipes that satisfy everyone at my table. This Za’atar-Spiced Beet Dip is a crowd favorite at backyard BBQs, while this Risotto with Beet Greens spotlights the veggie, without the veggie overpowering the dish. And this Tangled Thai Salad—hat tip to food editor Amanda M. Faison for passing it along—was nearly finished before my husband guessed he was eating raw beets (he didn’t even mind). And you must try the Beet Burger from The Kitchen Next Door’s Hugo Matheson (on page 57 of 5280: The Cookbook).