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Produce Corner - Beets

The Produce Corner is a collaborative column by farmer and Dill Pickle owner Rob Montalbano and Dill Pickle's Produce Lead Buyer, Kristen Martinek. Here Rob shares info on some of his favorite in-season veggies including history, cooking ideas and storage tips; Kristen offers nutritional information and additional recipe ideas. Rob lives and works with his wife Christina on their farm in Sandwich, IL.

When I first started farming, I had a little stand at the Logan Square market. As I was deciding what to grow for the season, I put in a row of beets. I figured that they wouldn't really sell too well because who eats beets anyway?

Logan Square eats beets, that's who. Crikey, Logan Square eats a lot of beets. I've grown quite a few beets since then and learned a bit about one of my favorite roots. They come in all sorts of colors and sizes, for example. You can buy red, purple, white and golden beets. They are round, sometimes blocky, and even cylindrical. They're almost always extra sweet and did you know that table sugar is often made from beets?

They store great too. Just take off the beet greens before storing. The beet greens, by the way, are a big bonus. If they are young and tender, you can add the greens right on top of a salad for a spinach-like flavor. If they are a little older and bigger, chop them up and saute with a little olive oil and garlic and sundried tomatoes. When storing the roots, they like low temperatures and high humidity. So wash them well and put in a plastic bag in the crisper section of the refrigerator. They will last up to a month.

There are all different ways to prepare beets but definitely try the grill. When roasting on the grill, I don't even peel the beets. Just wash them and chop them into quarters, rub a little with olive or walnut oil, and wrap in foil. After about 25 minutes, open up the foil and add some chopped walnuts and a little salt. Leave the foil open as you finish them. They are done when you can pierce them easily with a fork, about 30-40 minutes. -Rob

As Rob mentioned, beets come in a variety of colors and sizes, meaning they also provide a variety of nutrients. Beets are loaded with folate, manganese, fiber and they pack in a good amount of potassium as well. Beets are also full of phytonutrients, antioxidants, and other powerful compounds that help protect against heart disease and certain cancers. Beets are nutritional powerhouses that are thankfully so versatile, I am certain there is a recipe out there for everyone to enjoy! One of my favorite ways to prepare beets is by whipping them into a 'hummus'. Beet hummus can be enjoyed in a variety of ways: alone by the spoonful (it's that good), as a dip, in place of salad dressing, spread on crackers, or as a compliment on sandwiches/wraps. Check out this recipe for how I have traditionally prepared my beet hummus - enjoy! - Kristen

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