The Beauty of the Beet

Growing up, I remember my mother—an avid gardener—going out early on Saturday mornings to snatch up some of her gorgeous burgundy colored beets for Sunday dinner. She always picked them on Saturday as they were considered a hard vegetable that needed to be cooked the day before. My mother insisted on boiling the whole beets without the tops, which of course she steamed and served with the dinner. It was important to her that the beets slices were perfectly round and made to overlap each other on the special oval baking dish she used for this purpose. She dotted them with lots of butter, salt, and pepper and warmed them in the oven before serving. This was simply her ritual and nobody got in her way!

Beets were served on Sunday, along with fresh buttered mashed potatoes, a large green salad, steamed beet tops, and homemade whole wheat bread. Oh, the flavors of all those simple garden delicacies were nirvana to a young child of six! Only a nice slice of homemade cherry pie could top the beauty of our Sunday beet dinners.

I think this must have been one of my father’s favorite dinners too. My mom, who was mostly a stay-at-home wife in the early 1950s, seemed to center meals around the question of “What would Dad like for dinner tonight?”

Fast-forward many years to our present-day process of getting dinner on the table. Unlike the nostalgic trip into my childhood, for many families this means heating frozen dinners, making a quick trip to a favorite restaurant on the way home from work, or stopping by the nearest pizza parlor after a long and tiring day. Sound familiar? No doubt there are still many people who make some treasured time to cook and bake. To them I say hooray! And stay with it—the payoff in good health is truly worth it.

Getting back to the subject of this conversation, I suppose it would be nice to answer some basic beet questions. What is the beauty of the beet? Why is it loved by some and hated by others? Are people deterred by the color, the shape, the taste? Or maybe because they never had them growing up, and therefore beets didn’t become a part of their internal psyche. Whether or not you like beets, I hope to share the secret of what happens when you prepare this marvelously nutrient-dense vegetable in a way other than just boiling or roasting them. In my opinion what’s even worse is dicing or shredding beets for a salad and eating them raw. What’s so bad about that? Beets are unfortunately high on the glycemic index, with a rating of 64. This indicates your blood glucose response to 50 grams of beet carbohydrates would be about 64 percent of your response to pure glucose, which has a rating of 100 on the scale. In addition, raw beets can be very hard to digest.

People often tell me they don’t eat beets because of the high sugar content. But when beets are fermented, those sugars are used up naturally during the fermentation process. In the case of fermented beets or beet kvass, you’re no longer consuming sugar at all. The same is true of  kefir—because of fermentation, the milk sugars so many people are allergic to are no longer present. So enjoy with total abandon!

Although boiling or roasting beets, or eating them raw, is the norm for most of us, there is another way to prepare them. This method cannot be misconstrued as anything other than perfection because it imparts the full nutritional value beets contain. That’s why I call it “The Beauty of the Beet.” Yes, I’m talking about lacto-fermentation—turning beets into beet kvass, or fermented beets. Allow me to quote from my favorite cookbook, Sally Fallon Morell’s Nourishing Traditions, page 610:

This drink (beet kvass) is valuable for its medicinal qualities and as a digestive aid. Beets are just loaded with nutrients. One 4-ounce glass, morning and night, is an excellent blood tonic, promotes regularity, aids digestion, alkalizes the blood, cleanses the liver and is a good treatment for kidney stones and other ailments. Beet kvass may also be used in place of vinegar in salad dressings and as an addition to soups.

When I first read this, I was in my early transitional stage as a recovering vegetarian and just starting to embrace the food philosophy of Weston A. Price and Sally Fallon Morrell. I kid you not, I jumped up and immediately decided to make and consume beet kvass for the rest of the precious days the good Lord would give me. As I sit here and write, a fizzy glass of this splendid elexiris keeping me company, and my small extra fridge is host to about five more half-gallons —ready when I am! In my DVD Cook Your Way To Wellness, I give you explicit, step-by-step instructions for how to make the basic recipe in Nourishing Traditions. But after I made the DVD, I discovered how to enhance this precious drink with another nutrient-dense, anti-cancer vegetable. I added this powerful discovery to the recipe in my Tell Me More booklet, which accompanies the DVD. Even though you won’t see it on video, it’s there for you to read.

Before I leave you to make the nutrient packed recipes below, I want to add to Sally Fallon’s statement above that “Beets are just loaded with nutrients.”

Here is even more nutritional information on this powerhouse vegetable:

In addition to all the good bacteria that’s so highly beneficial to the gut—and that can be derived only by the fermentation process—beets contain folate, manganese, potassium, copper, fiber, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin C, iron, and vitamin B6. Beets are also a unique source of phytonutrients called betalains. Betanin and vulgaxanthin are the two best-studied betalains from beets, and both have been shown to provide  anti-inflammatory and detoxification support. It’s no wonder that Sally can say with such confidence that beets are loaded with nutrients!

In conjunction with beet kvass and/or fermented beets, one important supplement that I often use and recommend to my clients is A-F Betafood from Standard Process. Like fermented beets or beet kvass, this supplement is loaded with nutrients. Made with beet leaves, A-F Betafood is great for gallbladder symptoms, liver disease, elevated cholesterol, hypoglycemia, and elevated homocystine levels. A bottle of this fine product also makes a perfect travel companion when you’re unable to take your jar of beet kvass or fermented beets along with you, or when you need the therapeutic concentration of Dr. Lee’s brilliant formula in AF Betafood. Enjoy the following recipes, and please feel free to add a few A-F Betafood tablets to your meal.

Beet and Sardine Salad
Adapted from Epicurious.com

In addition to the beets, this salad features sardines, which are high in RNA (ribonucleic acid)—a real youth serum and another Standard Process classic.

Ingredients

½ cup sour cream
1 tablespoon horseradish
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
1 cup fermented beets, cubed (recipe in Nourishing Traditions)
1 tablespoon organic olive oil
1 can sardines in oil

Instructions

1. Stir together sour cream, horseradish, dill, and salt to taste.
2. Add the fermented beets and olive oil, and toss.
3. Place the sardines on top of the beets and sour cream mixture.

Beet Kvass
From Nourishing Traditions, page 610

Powdered whey should not be used in the following recipe. Homemade whey will kick-start the fermentation process until the salt takes over, preventing any chance of mold formation. Watch a step-by-step demonstration for making homemade whey on my Cook Your Way to Wellness DVD.

Ingredients

3 medium or 2 large beets, diced
¼ cup homemade whey
1 tablespoon sea salt
Filtered water

Instructions

1. Place beets, whey, and salt in a 2-quart glass container. Add filtered water to fill the container.
2. Shake gently to dissolve the salt, and cover securely.
3. Keep at room temperature for 2 days before transferring to refrigerator. Your fizzy probiotic beverage will keep in the fridge for 3–4 weeks.

 
Eat This Root
Herb progression, 2000 BC to present
2000 BC Here, eat this root.
1000 BC That root is heathen, here, say this prayer.
1850 AD That prayer is superstition, here drink this potion.
1940 AD That potion is snake oil, here, swallow this pill.
1985 AD That pill is ineffective, here, take this antibiotic.
2000 AD That antibiotic is artificial, here, eat this root.
Author Unknown

Photo from iStock/habovka

Maria Atwood, CNHP

Maria Atwood is a semi-retired Certified Natural Health Professional and Weston A. Price Chapter Leader in Colorado Springs, CO. Her website, Traditional Cook, offers the Wonder Mixer as well as the #1 rated grain mill, Wondermill. Maria’s “Cook Your Way to Wellness” DVD and booklet is available on demand at Vimeo.com and also sold as a full set on Selene River Press. Be sure to join the Selene River Press newsletter to follow Maria’s Tips from The Traditional Cook blog.

2 thoughts on “The Beauty of the Beet

  1. Bill Henderson says:

    “The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The
    radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a
    cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty
    enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity.
    Beets are deadly serious.

    Slavic peoples get their physical
    characteristics from potatoes, their smoldering inquietude from
    radishes, their seriousness from beets.

    The beet is the melancholy vegetable, the one most willing to suffer. You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip…

    The
    beet is the murderer returned to the scene of the crime. The beet is
    what happens when the cherry finishes with the carrot. The beet is the
    ancient ancestor of the autumn moon, bearded, buried, all but
    fossilized; the dark green sails of the grounded moon-boat stitched with
    veins of primordial plasma; the kite string that once connected the
    moon to the Earth now a muddy whisker drilling desperately for rubies.

    The beet was Rasputin’s favorite vegetable. You could see it in his eyes” – Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

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