Give beets (and other veggies) a chance
You may remember staring at the bulbous purple lump on your plate as a little kid with pure disdain—beets were not for you. You’re not alone. Beets have a bad reputation as one of the most hated veggies around, but the nutritionists and dieticians at VeggieRx—a cooperative program by the Chicago Botanic Garden, Lawndale Christian Health Center (LCHC), and the University of Illinois-Chicago’s Chicago Partnership for Health Promotion (CPHP)—are showing a tastier side of beets.
VeggieRx provides boxes of produce prescribed by doctors to help patients experiencing food insecurity and diet-related diseases. The produce is grown by Windy City Harvest, the Garden’s urban agriculture program. Part of the program is to help demystify new veggies by sharing easy, delicious recipes.
“I was excited to learn different things and to get a box of veggies I don’t normally get from the grocery store,” said Jackie Sanchez, who discovered the VeggieRx program to help her husband Hector, who was diagnosed with diabetes. “Every beet I get, I pickle. Hector still doesn’t like them as much as me, but he does like the beet juice.”
Beets are an excellent source of fiber, folate, calcium, and vitamin C, making them a nutritional powerhouse. But what do you do with them?
Start off with this kale and roasted beet salad (below) that won over the Sanchezes. “I tried this recipe and it was different for me. Kale was new to us and Hector’s not crazy about it raw. We ended up sautéing the kale and liked it a lot more,” said Jackie Sanchez.
Kale and Roasted Beet Salad
Makes: 8 servings, 1 cup each
- 5-6 small beets, roasted
- 1 bunch kale
- 1⁄2 cup pecans
- 1 t. honey
- 2 T. balsamic vinegar
- 1 T. maple syrup
- 1 T. lemon juice
- 1⁄4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1⁄2 cup feta or goat cheese
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Preheat oven at 400 ̊ F. Thoroughly wash beets, and then wrap them individually in foil. Place them on a baking sheet and bake for 40-60 minutes. Larger beets take longer, so check them every 20 minutes. They are finished when you can easily pierce them with a toothpick. Remove from oven to cool.
- Once cool, cut the rough tops off beets, peel roasted beets, and cut into small pieces. Set aside.
- Clean kale, remove leaves from the stalks, and cut or tear into small pieces. Add a pinch of salt, and massage kale pieces for 30 seconds. Let sit.
- Place pecans in a small pan and toast over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring often to prevent them from burning.
- Remove pecans and spread out on parchment paper. Drizzle honey over the toasted pecans while they are still warm.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, and lemon juice. Slowly add olive oil while continuing to whisk until the dressing is thickened. Add salt & pepper to taste.
- Add beet wedges and crumbled cheese to the salad.
- Chop cooled pecans into smaller pieces, and sprinkle over the top of the salad.
Fun fact: Did you know beet greens are also edible? A one-cup serving of cooked beet greens is an excellent source of vitamins A and K, potassium and magnesium, and a good source of calcium.