Ask any beet lover what these nutritious vegetables taste like and they will describe it as a sort of earthy flavor with a touch of bitterness.
To cut a long story short, the taste of beets will greatly depend on the manner in which you prepare them.
What do beets taste like? Generally speaking, they are an acquired taste. Some people find them bitter while others find them bearable with an earthy flavor. Whatever the case, you can alter the taste of the beets depending on how you choose to prepare them.
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Different types of beets
I am sure that close to 80 percent of people are like me and blindly believed or thought that all beets are red in color.
Well, you can imagine the shock that I experienced when I found out that there were not just one or two types but over 10 different types of beets.
Below is a list some of the types of beets I came across;
- Red Beets that we all know and love.
- Golden Beets are beets that are carrot colored and are similar in taste to red beets.
- Striped Beets are beets that are commonly known as Chioggia or Bassano Beets and are named after a village in Italy where they were first cultivated.
- Cylindra Beets that are shaped like carrots in an almost cylindrical shape hence the name cylindra.
- Mangold or mangel-wurzel beets are those beets that are shaped like turnips and are grown for their sugary taste though not as saturated as their counterparts the sugar beets.
- Sugar Beets – these are off white in color and typically grown for commercial use. The sucrose content is high so many people do not typically eat them as they would say red beets.
It is important to note that this list is not exclusive as there are many more varieties of beets that we have not covered or discussed.
What is the best way to eat beets? Raw or cooked?
Beets are one of the vegetables that are considered healthier when they are served raw. This raw option of eating beets comes as a nutritional bomb packed with more nutrients, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and nitrates than their cooked beets counterparts.
When beets are cooked the concentration of nutrients such as vitamin C and betalains (responsible for anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties in beets) contained in the beets is reduced as they are sensitive to heat.
Slice up or grate raw beets and add them to your salad or coleslaw for that added earthy sweetness flavor. Another way to savor beets when they are raw is to incorporate them into your smoothies or to choose the alternative of juicing them.
Beetroot leaves though mildly bitter are edible too and are frequently used in salads or sautéed as an alternative to spinach.
Other ways to eat beets without necessarily overcooking them and in this way thus retaining some nutrients are such as;
- Roasted and topped with goat cheese for that added kick
- Pickled, the fused tart flavor and the beet sweetness makes for a divine feel
- Steamed or boiled until tender
Alternatively, they could be added as a secret ingredient to your favorite ice cream or cake.
How can you make beets taste good?
Simply put, in order to make beets taste good, you need to apply heat to them. What this essentially means is that when beets are roasted, boiled, or steamed, they release the sweet flavor in them and start to taste good.
Adding warm spices such as pepper, paprika, and cumin or dry/fresh herbs such as thyme and coriander will also mask the earthy flavor.
What goes well with beets
They are versatile and can be paired with a variety of things. To begin with, when they are used in salads, they go really well with most other root vegetables that include the likes of carrots, onions, and radishes.
To add to that, beets also tend to go really well with many other greens such as cabbage, spinach, and cucumbers.
If you want to go a step further and compliment the mellow flavor that beets have, you can go the route of flavoring them with butter or adding just a little bit of zest that will take your taste buds on a culinary adventure by adding just a dash of lemon juice.
The magic of beets is that they can pair well with almost every meal that you can think of, be it beef, chicken, duck, lamb, pork, whatever the case may be.
How to store beets
The shelf life of beets can be extended for as long as 12 months depending on the method of preservation used.
Before you put them away, wash the leaves and roots and dry them thoroughly (you could opt to air dry them). Cut the leaves approximately 2 inches from the stem. This prevents the leaves from depleting the moisture in the beet.
Store the leaves in a Ziploc bag and use them within 2 to 4 days. Place the roots (don’t trim them) in a different Ziploc bag and store them in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator for up to 10 days. Cooked beets can be stored in airtight containers and refrigerated for up to 7 days.
For long-term storage, beets are frozen, canned, or pickled. However, avoid freezing raw beets as it tends to change the taste and texture of the beets. To freeze, boil the beets to the consistency of your liking.
Once ready allow to cool, peel off the skin, and slice or dice them for easier storage but you be frozen whole. Place the beets in airtight containers or bags and put away. With this method of preservation, they can last for as long as 12 months.
What are the benefits of eating beets?
Beetroots are regarded as a gem of the vegetable world owing to a plethora of health benefits.
- Rich in fiber which normalizes bowel movements, helps maintain bowel health, lowers cholesterol and blood pressure levels, and inflammation.
- They contain the pigment betacyanin that has some anti-cancer properties that suppress the malignant cell growth in lung, colon, and skin cancer.
- Support heart health by stripping excess bad cholesterol from the walls of blood vessels thus preventing potential heart attacks.
- The natural nitrates in beetroots are converted into nitric oxide. This dilates blood vessels, improves blood flow, and as a consequence lowers blood pressure beneficial for the avoidance of heart attacks and strokes
- Help with the absorption of fats and fighting chronic inflammation thanks to the nutrient choline.
- Beets have powerful antioxidant properties that help rid body cells of free radicals and help in the detoxification of the body
- Improve liver health by preventing fat accumulation
- The vitamin B folate in beets is an essential vitamin for pregnant women as it reduces the risk of the baby developing neural tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly. It also lowers the risk of premature labor
- Increased blood flow to the brain thanks to the nitrate in beets helps slow down and reduce the risk of dementia.
- Boost the immune system owing to the high levels of vitamin C and minerals essential for healthy nerve and muscle function. The greens in beets also result in increased production of white blood cells and antibodies that fight off infections and diseases.
- Protect eyes from age-related macular degeneration and cataracts thanks to lutein, an antioxidant in beet greens
Who should avoid beets?
As healthy as beetroots are, they can prove fatal for some people and a healthcare professional should always be consulted before incorporating it in their diets. Some of the people that fall into this category are:
- Anybody taking blood pressure medication or with low blood pressure
- People suffering from kidney stones and those with a high risk of developing the condition
- People allergic to beetroots; the reaction may present as hives, rashes, stomach cramps
- People with uncontrolled blood sugar levels
- Pregnant women as betaine and nitrites in beets may affect them and, in some cases, the fetus too
What happens if you eat too many beets?
Oscar Wilde once said,” Everything in moderation, including moderation “. Toxic effects of excessive consumption of beets are such as:
- Spikes in blood sugar that could prove fatal for people with uncontrolled blood sugar levels as beets are known to have a fairly high glycaemic index
- Gout; a form of arthritis characterized by severe pain in tenderness in joints as a result of the high levels of oxalates contained in beets
- Liver and pancreas damage as a result of the accumulation of metals such as copper, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus all of which beetroots are rich.
- Kidney stones due to the high level of oxalates in beets that can result in small crystals
- Hypotension in people with low blood pressure after consumption of beetroots and beetroot juice
Other harmless and temporary effects of too many beetroots are ;
- Pink, red or purple urine which is known as beeturia
- Blackish or reddish stool