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The beet has a long history of cultivation stretching back to the second millennium BC. The plant was probably domesticated somewhere along the Mediterranean, whence it was later spread to Babylonia by the 8th century BC and as far east as China by 850 AD. Available evidence, such as that provided by Aristotle and Theophrastus, suggests the leafy varieties of the beet were grown primarily for most of its history, though these lost much of their popularity much later following the introduction of spinach. The roots and leaves of the beet have been used in folk medicine to treat a wide variety of ailments. Since Roman times, beetroot juice has been considered an aphrodisiac.

Remember all those legendary Russian centenarians? Beets, frequently consumed either pickled or in borscht, the traditional Russian soup, may be one reason behind their long and healthy lives. These colorful root vegetables contain powerful nutrient compounds that help protect against heart disease, birth defects and certain cancers, especially colon cancer.

Roasted beets are a dream and very easy to prepare: simply wrap in foil with about an inch or two of their tops still on and put in a 400 degree oven for an hour or less until tender.  The skins slip right off, and these tender beets are wonderful in salad or paired with tangy goat cheese as a study in tasty contrasts.


Here is an excellent and varied list of beet recipes, including not only roasted and grated beets in salads, but risotto, a lemony borscht for summer, beets sauteed with their own greens, marinated beets and beets starring in a main course dish with spiced quinoa .  From the New York Times healthy food writers.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas:

Simply grate raw beets for a delicious and colorful addition to salads or decorative garnish for soups.

Add chunks of beet when roasting vegetables in the oven.

Serving homemade vegetable juice? A quarter of a beet will turn any green drink into a sweet pink concoction, pleasing both the eyes and the taste buds.

Healthy sauté beet greens with other braising greens such as chard and mustard greens.

Marinate steamed beets in fresh lemon juice, olive oil, and fresh herbs.