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Beets in the Garden
Are Beets a Super Food
Beets are becoming increasingly more popular and fitness experts recommend we include them in our diet. Fresh beets are sweet and there are various ways to prepare them. From the same plant family as Swiss Chard, Beets are of the Beta Vulgaris species.
The bulb beneath the leaves is referred to as the root. Both the leaves and root are edible. Beet plants are very low in calories and contain only a small amount of fat. They offer fiber, vitamins, minerals and unique anti-oxidants for cleansing toxins.
The pigment colors offers antioxidants that help protect against artery disease and stroke. They help lower cholesterol levels and have anti-aging effects. The pigment of red beets is betanin and betacyanin. Other varieties include orange yellow, white, and candy cane. The candy cane variety has alternating red and white whorls in the bulb.
Blood cleanse - As a rich source of phytochemical compounds, beets help to lower homocysteine levels, a toxic platelet-promoting metabolite that can form plaque and cause clotting. High levels of homocysteine can result in heart and vascular diseases.
Raw beets provide a high level of folates, such as folic acid, a necessary compound in the development of mitochondria for cell growth to synthesize DNA. Mitochondria supply the cells with energy and oxygen. Vitamin B-9 folic acid supplementation is essential for the proper functioning of DNA replication.
Myopathies are conditions that may lead to a loss of function in the fibrous tissues of muscles, neuropathies, exercise intolerance, fatigue and anemia. Recent trials have shown that beets play a role in lowering blood pressure, reducing inflammation and increasing blood flow to the frontal lobes of the brain which may lower the risks of dementia.
Beet tops (the leaves or greens) - are a great source for carotenoids, flavonoids and vitamin A. Vitamin A is needed for healthy mucus membranes, skin and vision. Flavonoids help to protect lungs and gums from cancers.
Vitamins in beets - C, Bs 3, 5 and 6, iron, magnesium and manganese. Potassium counters the negative effects of sodium from inside of cells, lowers heart rate and helps regulate metabolism. Beets have 325mg of potassium per 3 1/2 ounces.
Storage - The greens should be separated from the root and stored in a separate bag in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. The greens are best used within three or four days, however, the roots may keep for up to three weeks in the refrigerator. Before cooking, rinse well in cold water then either soak in cold salt water for 30 minutes, or boil in salt water for one or two minutes, and drain. Soaking or boiling is done to remove all traces of soil and insecticide residues. Prepare as planned or boil in clean water until softened.
Serving tips - The skin of the beets can either be peeled before cooking using a peeler, or after they have steamed or cooked. The outer skin slips off easily after cooking.
- Juicing in raw form is a popular health drink. Beets combine well with many other fruits and vegetables.
- Slice thinly or into chunks, steam and serve warm. May like to add either butter, vinegar, lemon juice or olive oil.
- Add raw in salads.
- Pickle and store in a sealed jar in the refrigerator.
- Saute' beet greens in either a little olive oil, or add to skillet after small pieces of bacon are cooked halfway. Add s/p, fresh minced garlic and thinly sliced onion.
The juice recipe that follows is primarily for health benefits, however, many people like the taste as well as the benefits.
Beet juice recipe: Yields about 20 oz.
2 medium size beets
1 large carrot or 2 medium
half an apple
1/2 cucumber, peeled or non-peeled
3 ribs of celery
1 small chunk of ginger root
Note: When first adapting to ginger it may seem strong and spicy.
Genetically modified sugar beets began to be grown in 2011. Choose beets that are firm and grown conventionally or organically.
Producing Sugar From Beets
In 2008, a little over one million acres of sugar beets were harvested in the U.S. The world's sugar production from sugar beets amounted to 20% in 2009. The sugar is photosynthesized through the leaves into the root. The percentage of its weight in sugar content can reach from 12 to over 20%. The physical properties of beet sugar is similar to the sucrose in sugar cane.
The first sugar beet factory opened in 1801 in Silesia. Napoleon appointed a commission of scientists to investigate it. They opened two small factories near Paris after they returned, but neither one did very well and Napoleon was still interested. By 1811 he spent 200,000 to have sugar schools established and to compel farmers to plant large acreages of beets the next spring. He also stopped further importation of sugar from the Caribbean.
By 1837 France became the largest sugar beet producer in the world operating 542 factories that produced 35,000 tons. Two states in the U.S. began its production of beets in 1890.
To Grow Beets - The soil needs to be cultivated at least a foot deep, contain a good amount of compost or fertilizer, drain easily and be level. Temperature of 60 to 70 degrees F is most favorable, or that of hot days with cool nights. Much water, about 16 inches, is needed and the absence of high winds that cause the ground to crust over.
Rotation is not only recommended, but necessary for a good harvest because beets use up the nutrients in the soil. A three year rotation is suggested with peas and beans the other two years. Planting is normally in the spring with harvesting in autumn. In warmer climates, beets are planted in autumn and harvested in the spring.
To use the companion planting method, keep them distant from pole beans and mustard plants. Beets do well with lettuce, onion, sage, bush beans and most members of the cabbage family.
Whether cooked, juiced or raw in salads, beets are a great source for nutrition and an excellent food. Cooking fresh beets reserves the sugar content providing better flavor compared to canned. Try a few ways to prepare them to include beets in your meals.