Would it sound strange to buy sneakers without the laces, or a sandwich and throw away the bun? Well, it seems to be in this culture of ours, we’ve grown accustomed to eating just part of a whole food, and tossing away the parts that matter most. We peel our apples, we separate eggs into their respective white and yolk parts, we strip our grains of all their exterior nutrients to make pristine, white everything, and we lop the tops off our root vegetables. Stop the insanity!
Foods are whole for a reason – they are all perfect packages of well-balanced nutrition – designed that way for our benefit. Beets are a perfect example of this. Fortunately, this time of year, you can find them in their whole state, with the delicious green tops attached! It’s like getting two vegetables for the price of one! Here are some other vegetables that you can eat (gasp!) whole.
Celery – the root bulb is tasty and surprisingly potato-like; it’s called celeriac.
Cilantro – the roots are super nutritious and contain the most flavour.
Kohlrabi – both greens and roots are delicious!
Garlic – eat the unopened garlic flowers in the spring; they are called scapes.
Leeks – don’t just eat the white parts – the tops are good for you too!
Broccoli – the tree trunks are just as yummy as the tops.
Give Greens a Chance
Poor little beet greens, often tossed away by your grocer and forgotten. A trip to a farmer’s market or good grocery store this time of year will reward you with the leafy beauties that are still in season. They are loaded with carotenes and minerals, such as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, vitamin C, E, B6, B1, B2, B3, folate…the list goes on forever! They are also amazing when juiced. Beetroots are also a wonderful source of nutrition and have been used for medicinal purposes since ancient times. They have a cleansing effect on the liver, and aid digestion and the lymphatic system. Beets tone the blood and build red blood cells. Together, roots and greens are hard to beet!
Here’s a simple recipe that uses both nutrient-dense parts of the beet plant – the roots and the greens. Select the freshest beets based on the look of their tops: they should be bright green, crisp and perky. Avoid beets greens with brown spots and ones that look limp. The greens should be consumed within two or three days, while you can save the roots for later.
Balsamic Beets and Greens Salad
1 bunch beets with greens (about 3-4 medium beets)
1 can or 1 cup cooked chickpeas (optional)
2 cloves minced garlic
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. Balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Handful of almonds or walnuts, chopped
1. Scrub the beetroots and place whole in a steamer to cook until tender – 30-40 minutes.
2. Separate the beet roots from the greens. Wash greens thoroughly by submerging them in water and agitating. Remove from water bath, shake dry, and roughly chop into strips.
3. Peel beet roots simply by running under cold water. Cut beets into bite-size pieces. Toss with lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and salt. Add chickpeas (they will turn pink!)
4. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sauté garlic for 3 minutes. Add sliced greens and cook uncovered for 5 to 7 minutes, until wilted.
5. Just before serving add beet greens to the beetroot and chickpea mixture. Garnish with chopped walnuts or almonds for crunch.
Exploring farmers markets is a wonderful way to understand how plants are grown. Ask the vendors which parts of the plants are edible and which are not. And find some recipes that include both parts of your favorite fruits and vegetables to get the most for your money – nutrition, taste, and a few pennies pinched!