Harvest of the Month: Beets are the featured produce for February at Tahoe Truckee Unified School District | SierraSun.com

Harvest of the Month: Beets are the featured produce for February at Tahoe Truckee Unified School District

Deep red, heart-shaped, and sweet and#8212; baby beets are on the Harvest of the Month tasting menu at our local elementary schools. While beets may not win a vegetable popularity contest, they do have their fans, and I am certainly one of them. If you rarely think about beets, or have bad memories from childhood, it may be time to expand your palette and give them a try!

Sweet young beets are available in a variety of colors including red, gold, and red and white candy striped, the vibrant colors look wonderful on a plate and taste great roasted, raw, boiled, steamed, sauteed, and pickled. Beets have the highest sugar content of vegetables, yet they are low in calories and high in nutrients. Beet roots are a good source of potassium, folate, fiber and manganese.

In addition to the roots, beet greens are also edible and even more nutritious than the roots. Young beet leaves are often included in mixed spring greens for salad and the mature leaves can be sauteed or braised as you would chard, kale or spinach. Beet greens are high in beta carotene, Vitamins A and C, potassium, iron, magnesium and calcium.

Betacyanin is the pigment that gives beets their deep red color. Studies have shown that beets are protective against colon cancer, probably due to the combination of betacyanin and fiber. Beets are also associated with reducing the risk of heart disease.

Swiss chard, garden beets, stock beets and sugar beets all belong to the same botanical family. The leaves of the various types of beets have been eaten since before written history, while the roots were used medicinally for such ailments as stomach problems and fevers. As beets spread throughout Europe, the roots were used as animal feed and did not become popular for human consumption until the 16th century. In the late 18th century, a process for extracting the sugar from beets was developed, and by 1880 over 50 percent of the worldand#8217;s sugar production came from beets.

Choose small to medium-sized beets which are usually more tender and sweet than larger beets. The roots should be firm, smooth-skinned and deep in color. While the quality of the greens does not reflect the quality of the root, if you plan to eat the greens, choose a bunch that appears fresh and tender with a bright green color.

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Beet roots can be stored for two to four weeks in the refrigerator crisper. To reduce bleeding during storage, leave about two inches of stems intact when you cut off the beet greens. Store the greens in a separate bag for up to four days.

Michael Plapp is the chef de cuisine at Baxterand#8217;s Bistro and Lounge. He has been a chef in the Lake Tahoe-Truckee area since 1998. Plapp lives in Truckee with his wife and two children and enjoys rock climbing and skiing when not in the kitchen. Enjoy this wonderful recipe that includes two different types of beets prepared two different ways! Give beets a second chance.

and#8212; Maria Martin, MPH, RD is a member of the Nutrition Coalition and a Wellness Dietitian. The Nutrition Coalition is funded and supported by the Tahoe Forest Health System through the Tahoe Center for Health and Sports Performance. Contact us at (530) 587-3769, ext. 7126 or mmartin@tfhd.com.

Serves four

Ingredients

Medium Red Beet 2 each

Medium Golden Beet 1 each

Green Beans 1/2 lb

Valencia Orange 2 each

Sweet Onion 1 each

Watercress or Arugula 1 bunch

Feta Cheese, diced 4 oz

Pine Nuts, toasted 1/2 Cup

Extra Virgin Olive Oil 1 Cup (total)

White Wine Vinegar 1 1/2 Cup (total)

Granulated Sugar 1 tsp

Kosher Salt 1 tsp + as needed to taste.

Cracked Black Pepper as needed

Procedure

Brush red beets with oil, season with salt and pepper, wrap in aluminum foil and roast in 375F oven until softened. Peel beets while still warm. Slice (? and#8220; thick) rounds and reserve.

Peel and dice (? and#8220;) golden beets and thinly slice onion. Place both in non- reactive container.

Bring 1 Cup vinegar to boil with 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp sugar, pour over diced beets and onions and steep to pickle.

Blanch (par cook) green beans in boiling water and reserve.

Juice 1 orange and reserve, slice segments from the second orange.

Whisk orange juice, 1/2 cup of vinegar and remaining oil to create vinaigrette.

Dress red beets, green beans and watercress with vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper.

Divide between four plates. Top each with pickled gold beets and onions, feta and pine nuts.