The beet could be considered a very polarizing vegetable. Some people love them, but many seem to hate them. This is likely due to the earthy flavor thanks to the chemical geosmin that can be found in the root vegetable. Beets never stood a chance with many Americans who are still haunted by the gelatinous pickled beets they were served as children. Maybe it’s the millennial in me, but I’m a huge fan of beets, pickled, roasted, or even raw.
Beets shot to popularity in northeastern Europe about 200 years ago. Slavic people discovered it was one of few crops which could grow throughout the winter, and store easily, hence the popularity of dishes like borscht. At some point, the beet craze moved over to Australia. The beet burger is a common down under dish. Americans are also warming up to the vegetable thanks to its numerous health benefits.
There are a number of beet varieties. Obviously, the best-known is the red beet, which is characterized by its deep color and pungent taste. The golden beet has emerged to the public more recently, though it can be harder to find as it is still typically grown in smaller crops. Though more exotic in appearance, the pink- and white-striped Chioggia has a milder flavor. The all-white sugar beet has the sweetest flavor pallet, making it a popular source for sugar production. In fact, Utah is one of the world’s largest producers of sugar beets thanks to the LDS Church, who started growing and processing them in the late 1900’s. Jordan High School honors that history through its mascot, the Beetdigger.
Though the vegetable can be found year-round, prime season is late summer through fall. A late harvest generally brings the best flavor, so watch for beets during the month of October.
A number of local restaurants have incorporated beets into their menus. Avenues Proper offers a salad featuring both roasted and pickled beets. Stop by Pago for a small plate featuring an innovative presentation of the root vegetable, including a balsamic beet puree. The Mia sugar cookie at RubySnap proves beets have a place in the sweets world with its beet buttercream frosting.
Make It At Home
There are a variety of simple ways to enjoy beets at home. The peel may seem intimidating, but it is easily rubbed off after boiling or roasting. Already rich with sweet flavor, beets don’t require much extra seasoning. They can balance out sharp flavors, like lemon and goat cheese, or you can highlight their unique, earthy sweetness by pairing it with milder ones.
Try the latter in this simple recipe from Cuisine Unlimited, which presents boiled beets tossed in lemon juice and served with feta and pumpkin seeds. Just beware that cooking with red beets will likely lead to dying your hands, and other things.