Wednesday, August 19, 2009


By Jennifer Sygo, National Post

Beets are a good source of folate, a B-vitamin important for the formation of red blood cells, and perhaps best known for its role in preventing birth defects.Photograph by: Richard Arless Jr, For Canwest News Service

At this time of year, it’s easy to step out of the same old menu: Try beets, zucchini, eggplant & rapini.
Picture it: You’re wandering the produce section of your grocery store, or maybe you’ve hauled yourself out of bed early enough to hit a local farmer’s market. It’s August, and there’s plenty of fresh local stuff available. But before you know it, you’ve gravitated to the same foods you bought last week. Broccoli, carrots, peaches: You know them well, and like an old pair of sneakers, they’re always there, comfy and easy.

First of all, let’s give credit where credit is due: Eating any fruits or vegetables is a good thing. Not only do they provide the bulk of so many nutrients we need for optimal health, like beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, potassium, and soluble and insoluble fibre, but there is a pile of evidence that consuming a diet rich in fruits and vegetables helps support a healthy weight and reduces your risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

But does that mean you should rest on your cucumber-and-tomato laurels? Of course not! After all, you are an open-minded budding foodie, with a penchant for living life on the edge. So in the name of all that is green and leafy, throw off your shackles and take a chance! Use these tips for preparing some of the less commonly chosen local produce, and spread your wings and fly, young grasshopper. Embrace your inner beet!


Ah, beets. Great for making Grade 2 art projects, borscht and not much else, right?

Wrong! There is much more to love about the noble beet, which can be found fresh right now in a variety of fiery tones. Why eat this bulbous root veggie? Well, the sweet, earthy taste aside, beets are a good source of folate, a B-vitamin important for the formation of red blood cells, and perhaps best known for its role in preventing birth defects. Beets are also rich in potassium, which can help with blood pressure control, are a source of dietary fibre, and are low in calories at about 40 calories per ½ cup, cooked.

OK, that’s all well and good, but what on Earth do you do with them? Believe it or not, beets are really easy to prepare. If you can make a potato, then you can make a beet — and if you can’t make a potato, then that’s another matter. Here are the basics:

Take your beets by the roots, cut off the greens (which you can prepare in the same way as rapini, see below), and boil them with the skins on (this will help retain the moisture) until they are soft like a boiled potato. Remove from the water, and take the peel off with a knife or your fingers once they have cooled a little. Cut into medallions or small cubes, toss with a bit of olive oil, pepper, and a touch of salt, if desired, and that’s it — they are ready to serve.

Alternatively, you can toss the cooked beets with olive oil, parmesan cheese and balsamic vinegar and serve warm. Or cool them and serve as a salad with a bit of sour cream and fresh dill.

If you want an even simpler and lower calorie method of preparing beets, just wrap them in foil and put them on the barbecue until they are tender — you don’t even need salt or oil.

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