Look at our bountiful harvest!” my 17-year-old daughter said as she pulled a potato from our backyard garden while kneeling among the foliage.
“I want to find one!” I said teasingly as I reached over and tried to grab a potato. She playfully swatted my hand away before I could nab the large potato near her knee.
She began digging with her hands like an archeologist in search of fossils. We didn’t find any dinosaur bones, but the potato plants produced abundantly.
“Here’s another one!” she said as she turned her body to shield the tubers from my reach. I grabbed one when she wasn’t looking. We didn’t know that digging potatoes was going to be so fun.
I pulled several carrots and beets to prepare for dinner. Then we picked several large red apples from our tree. We went in the house with a bucket of our locally grown food to prepare for dinner.
As we scrubbed the vegetables, she was particularly interested in the beets. We haven’t had beets very often.
“Don’t beets taste like dirt?” she asked.
“Beets taste like beets, but they are kind of earthy, I guess,” I replied. I was a little worried that her notions about beets might lead to a bowl of uneaten cooked beets on the table.
“What makes beets purplish red?” she asked while washing the beets.
When she began cutting them, she noticed that her hands and the cutting board had turned pinkish. She was somewhat amazed by her pink hands. We should have worn plastic gloves.
I proceeded to tell her about beets until she got the glazed-eye look of a bored teenager.
Not all beets are reddish purple. Some are partly red and white.
Red beets are coloured by a pigment called betanin. This natural pigment is believed to help protect the plant from diseases, according to plant researchers. The colourant has been used as a natural dye for wool by some Native American tribes throughout history. The colourant also is used in the food industry as a natural food colour.
If you are not a regular beet consumer, I have a caution. After some people eat beets, they might have a surprise in the bathroom. Beside dying fabrics, beets also can colour urine and feces. Don’t be alarmed; this is not harmful.
When selecting beets at the grocery store or farmers’ market, look for beets with smooth skins. Beet greens also make a delicious and colourful addition to salads. Beet greens have red veins, and they stay fresh for about four days in your refrigerator when wrapped in plastic.
Store beets in the crisper in your refrigerator without washing them. Any time you get produce wet, you decrease the storage life. Leave about two inches of stem attached to roots to help prevent bleeding.
You can roast, boil or microwave beets. To roast, peel and trim the beets, then wrap in foil and bake for 60 to 90 minutes, depending on the size of the beets.
You might remember having beet pickles prepared by your parents or other relatives. If you have extra beets and want to try pickling them, check out an NDSU Extension Service publication, “Making Pickled Products” (FN189), for a research-tested recipe. The pickled beet recipe is on Page 10.
Here’s a recipe courtesy of Colorado State University Extension to enjoy the delicious veggies of fall.
Roasted root vegetables
- 1 onion, quartered and layers separated
- 1 medium-size white potato, peeled (optional) and diced into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 medium-size sweet potato, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch cubes
- 3 to 4 medium-size fresh beets, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch cubes
- Non-stick vegetable spray
- 4 tsp. olive oil, canola oil or other salad oil, divided
- 1 tsp. salt, divided
(Note: You can substitute equal amounts of your favourite vegetables if you see a vegetable that is not your favourite.)
Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a large baking sheet with foil and coat with non-stick vegetable spray. With an extra piece of foil, create a separate foil boat to hold the diced beets. Coat with non-stick spray and place it on top of the baking sheet. Peel off dry outer onion layers. Quarter and separate the onion layers. Toss onion pieces with 1 tsp. oil and 1/4 tsp. salt. Place on baking sheet. Wash, scrub, peel, dice white and sweet potatoes. Toss white and sweet potatoes with 2 teaspoons oil and 1/2 tsp. salt. Place on baking sheet. Wash, peel and dice beets. Caution: Beet juice can stain hands, cutting boards and counters.
Toss beets with 1 teaspoon oil and 1/4 tsp. salt. Place in foil boat on baking sheet. Bake uncovered for 25 to 30 minutes or until vegetables are soft and the edges are a light brown.
Makes six servings. Each serving has 90 calories, 3.5 grams (g) fat, 2 g protein, 16 g carbohydrate, 2 g fibre and 420 milligrams sodium.