Friday, January 17, 2014

Kitchen Tip: Don't Toss Out Those Beet Greens!

Don't toss out those beet greens -
those hearty leaves and stalks are full of nutritional value and great taste.

Some of you may already know this but next time you're at your local farmer's market buying beets, don't throw away those greens at the end of your beets. I had bought beets countless times from the market and it would generally go the same way each time. I would pick out the bunch of beets I wanted and then hand them over to the person at the register, who would then twist off the stalks with their flowing leaves and heap them onto a pile of similarly discarded vegetables.

Then one day something different happened. I found myself once again buying beets and the gentleman, instead of tossing aside the stalks, asked me if I'd like to take them home. "Really? What would I do with them?" I had always figured they were inedible so I hadn't given them much thought. He gave me a knowing smile that said I had some things to learn. "Cook them up! They're good for you." He shared that he had been cooking with them for years, using them the way you would spinach, chard or collard greens.

Ever since then, I make sure to pick out the freshest looking bunch with bright green leaves still in tact. They don't hold up as well as the beet root itself so cut and store them separately and try to cook them within a few days.

Here's a quick and easy way to prepare them:
  • 2 cups chopped beet leaves
  • 1 cup chopped beet stalks
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • olive oil
  • salt + pepper
  • juice of 1/2 lemon

Heat 3 tbs olive oil. Add minced garlic and cook for 15-20 seconds, stirring to keep them from burning. Add chopped stalks and sauté for approx. 4 minutes. Then add leaves and continue to cook for another 4-5 minutes. At the end, stir in lemon juice and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.*

*Alternative version: At the end, stir in lemon juice, 1 tbs soy sauce, 1 tsp honey + pepper. I tried this and the touch of honey adds a slight sweetness to contrast the delicious bitter greens. If trying this version, skip the salt.

You can add these colorful beet stalks and leaves in pretty much any dish
that calls for chard or spinach, such as frittatas, soups and quinoa.

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