Wednesday, May 12

Fresh Beets: The Polarizing Springtime Vegetable

fresh beets

Cilantro haters have been vindicated.

The New York Times recently ran a story: Cilantro Haters, It's Not Your Fault, in which Harold McGee, respected food scientist and author, explained why cilantro really does taste like soap to many people.

According to experts from flavor chemists to neuroscientists, some people "may be genetically predisposed to dislike cilantro." Turns out that cilantro's aroma is created by fragments of fat molecules called aldehydes. Flavor chemists have shown that "the same or similar aldehydes are also found in soaps and lotions...."

So cilantro-haters are not crazy after all. But what about beet-haters? Why do so many people say beets taste like dirt or metal? Is it chemistry? Canned beets? Craziness?

Mention beets and people react extremely. Lovers wax that beets are as sweet as sugar. Haters wane that they're dull as dirt. Literally. This could be because they failed to properly clean their beets and ate dirt, which studies have shown tastes like dirt.

President Obama famously banned beets from the White House garden.

What about the metallic taste in beets? Lots of people blame the metal can, which studies have shown tastes like metal. But that doesn't explain why many people say fresh beets taste like metal. Perhaps it's iron. Beets are high in iron, which is why they're recommended for people with anemia or for menstruating women.

I'd like Harold to do a piece on beet haters next. Someone needs to get to the bottom of this enigmatic vegetable, and clearly it isn't going to be President Obama.

In case you haven't guessed already, I am a beet lover. Although even I admit that sometimes beets taste a little like dirt, or as we foodies like to euphemistically say, "earthy."

My friend Karen of Family Style Food said it best:"I think they do taste like dirt but with sugar on top."

So, tell me, dear readers: Do you like beets? 

springtime fresh strawberry and salad with rosemary-lemon vinaigrette

Fresh Strawberry and Beet Salad with Rosemary-Lemon Vinaigrette
Makes 2 servings
Print recipe only here.

2 small beets (will yield about 1 cup cooked and sliced)
2 teaspoons olive oil
6-8 cups mesclun
1 cup sliced fresh strawberries
1-2 tablespoons lightly toasted pistachios

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar (or white balsamic)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons water
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
scant 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and center a rack. Wash beets, pat dry, and cut in half. Place flesh side down on a piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil. Close the foil, creating a tent. Place on a baking sheet. Cook for 60 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a knife. Remove from oven and rest on counter (still wrapped in the foil) for 20-30 minutes. To remove beet skins, gently rub with your thumb until they peel off. (You might want to wear gloves to avoid red stained fingers.) Slice beets. (At this point, beets can be refrigerated for up to 4-5 days.)

2. In a large bowl, toss mesclun, strawberries, and beets.

3. In a small bowl, whisk all vinaigrette ingredients. Taste and adjust accordingly. Pour over the salad and toss well. Garnish servings with toasted pistachios.

Here are more springtime recipes you might enjoy from Food Blogga:
Fava Bean and Dill Crostini
Creamy Goat Cheese and Beet Green Pasta
Warm Bulgur Salad with Beets, Fennel, and Oranges
Springtime Farro with Baby Artichokes, Mushrooms, and Peas 

Here are more beet recipes you might enjoy: 
Beet Risotto recipe from Cook 4 Seasons
Beet Hummus recipe from Simply Recipes
Grilled Beets with Feta recipe from Sarah's Cucina Bella
Can't Be Beet Chocolate Cake recipe from Fat Free Vegan


Manggy said...

I guess I'm the outlier - I certainly haven't eaten enough beets in my life to definitely know. They were just kind of okay, and the only memory I have is from a Polish cafeteria in Brooklyn. Maybe I've yet to eat that beet dish prepared with the utmost care and love! :)

Jessica said...

I haven't ever eaten a beet. I dislike most veggies and just figure I would hate it, too!

Cara said...

I love beets! But only within the past year or so - prior to that I had tried them a few times and really not liked them, so I think my taste buds grew a bit. I recently served a beet risotto at a dinner party and I was a little nervous since I know they're so polarizing, but surpringly, most of the people who thought they didn't like beets really enjoyed it! Perhaps it was the fontina and crispy pancetta in there. Cheese and bacon make everything better, right?

Anonymous said...

I really want to like them and have tried them over and over again but I just can't enjoy them. They have a funny taste to me.
I looove Cilantro!

Borea said...

Beets are one of my all time favorites! I literally fought with the caterer at my wedding to have beets represented. Her reasoning was that "no one eats beets!" My reply, "I do! My family does! This IS something I will become a bride-zilla about." And I got beets.

Beet greens are so fantastic lightly sauteed with garlic and olive oil, or served raw in a nice salad. Beets are all-around workhorses, creating flavorful dips for crudites, cold salads, hot sides and delightful pickles and relishes. If you don't like beets one way, try them another.

Cooking with Michele said...

I used to hate them - my parents say I spit them on the walls as a baby and ruined the wall paper. But since discovering roasting as an adult, I adore them! That takes them from dirty to sweet in my book. I also think many people have only had pickled beets - I love many vegetables fresh that I hate pickled, so maybe that's the hangup. Check out these beet chips I made - even my friends who hate beets said they love these:

Simona Carini said...

I love beets and enjoy them quite often. May I have some of your salad, please? :)

Susan from Food Blogga said...

mark-You most likely did! Beets need a little lovin' for sure. :)

jessica-Oh, no! Please taste one, for me. Please? :)

cara-Fontina and crispy pancetta have a way of making even beets seem seductive. I think it's true though. If you approach a food with an open mind, you'll often find it's not as bad as you think and that you may actually like it!

rockies-Hey, at least you tried! And at least you love cilantro. That definitely helps!

borea-I wish I was at that reception! I too adore beet greens. I love to saute them with olive oil and a dash of lemon and just eat them as a healthy snack. I think you and I are going to be good friends. :)

michele-You stained the wallpaper? That's hysterical! I actually like pickled beets. Of course, I like just about any vegetable pickled. I will check it out. Thanks!

simona-I wish you could come over for lunch! Really, I do.

afoodobsession said...

they do taste like dirt with sugar on them..but that's what i like about them...i hate their staining everything they come in contact with!

Caroline said...

I'm one that loved them from first bite! Really good when roasted & eaten with salad like you did here, beautiful btw.

RJ Flamingo said...

I am a beet-hater. I am in my 50's and over my life, I've had them every way you can think of, from borscht made by my old-country mother, to sides prepared by some of the best chefs. I've never had a canned beet. And they taste like dirt. Bleah.

The French said...

I love beets!!!!! I mean that beautiful, red gem grows in the ground!!! Still amazes me.

I categorize people in two groups: Cilantro-lovers and cilantro-haters. I try to be understanding, but secretly I distrust the haters. There. I said it. Then there's the people who don't like avocado and I can't even think about that for two long because it makes my brain hurt.

Perhaps the beet thing comes from people not trying them fresh the first time...kind of like sweet potatoes...if you're intro to SP's was the canned variety topped with marshmallows, I can understand. But if you ever have the chance to have a veggie that you dislike, prepared by someone who knows what they're doing, take it. At least try. I did that with Brussels and now they're one of my favorite veggies. Think we make up our minds that something isn't good and then get set in our ways. Always good to check in every now and then and see if perhaps our tastes have changed:)

Stacy (Little Blue Hen) said...

Beets took me a while, but now I really like them. I just posted an awesome warm beet recipe with shallots, chard, and fancy cheese that I devoured! My husband still sticks up his nose at them -- more for me!

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Put me in the LOVE category with beets. That wasn't always the case, but I have to say I'm just counting the days until the CSA harvests our first crop of beets. I even got to plant the seed this year, so I think they will taste extra special!

Kalyn Denny said...

I love beets! They're high in sugar though so I do eat them kind of sparingly. I have a sister who hates them with a passion, so when we go to one of our favorite salad places, she gives me her beets!

Sean said...

Not only do I love beets, but they are one of the few veggies that DPaul will eat in any way, shape or form. It's remarkable, as he is a cilantro hater, and a cabbage hater, and all kinds of other veggies hater, all on the grounds of funky flavor profiles, so you'd think the earthy notes of beets would put him off. Best I not mention it to him, lest he notice it and we lose another veggie from our repertoire. :)

Unknown said...

I love, love, love beets! I like them plain, in the rain, on a train, not down the drain. I love them grated, plated, em.

P.S. Love em with feta

Lynda said...

I fall in the beet-convert camp. Never a fan of their dirt-like favor, I have admired them from afar, seduced by their gorgeous colors. So, little by little I have sampled them, beginning with golden beets, which are milder, then moving on to the big bad red beets, which I now enjoy. Usually.

Meredith said...

I LOVE beets, adore beets, wish I had a beet salad right this minute. There are some preparations I don't particularly like, for example, the diced beets in a thick sweet cornstarchy sauce the cooks at our school lunchroom served at least once a week the entire twelve years I ate there. Generally, though, I believe beets are our friends.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

I'm a cilantro hater who loves beets! My favorite way to cook is to roast them in a bit of orange juice, which brings out the natural sugar.

Snooty Primadona said...

I've been preaching about the wonder of beets for years but it seems there are just so many people that remember having to eat pickled beets, that it seems futile at times. To me, they are one of the easiest vegetables to grow and, when steamed & eaten with butter, salt & pepper, the taste is absolutely divine.

Joanne said...

I'm GROWING to like beets. I had a somewhat traumatizing experience with some canned beets when I was younger and so I've been slow to really appreciate this vegetable. I'm getting there though! The salad looks delicious.

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Love beets - but not beet tops. They're best when they're fresh, not canned and I love them hot, cold, anyway at all. The salad looks delicious.

Kim at Rustic Garden Bistro said...

We LOVE beets! Have two rows of them (red and golden) in the garden right now.

TripleB said...

Love, and have always loved, beets. Love them hot, roasted in the oven; love them cold, in salad with vinaigrette.

In recent years I have discovered yellow and orange beets, which I also adore. I've also started cooking with the greens - they are really divine.

Tasty Eats At Home said...

I love beets, and I do agree that they taste "earthy". I would have never thought to include them along other sweet fruits and stuff in a salad. Yum!

Amy K said...

I absolutely LOVE beets, particularly roasted beets, and am thrilled they're in season again!

Kate said...

I do love beets, but admit that the red ones are still not a superb favorite. But the gold beets? The chiogga? I love those. They're much more mild, and so pretty when you cut into them. And tiny baby beets are a lot sweeter than the larger ones. And don't forget the GREENS!!! Love those.....

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

I LOVE beets, even as a child I think the first solid food I may have eaten were pickled betts.

sarah henry said...

I'm a beet lover too. (Cilantro lover as well.)

I figure folks who don't like beets haven't had them cooked right.

I got my beet-phobic family to try these delish root veggies in a salad with field greens, cara cara oranges, hazelnuts, and goat or feta cheese, with a chiffonade of mint -- & they're hooked.

Love the look of your recipe too.

Katie@Cozydelicious said...

I adore beets. But I only recently realized it. My Mom hate sthem, and I guess I never had them as a kid because she didn;t make them. So somehow I just assumed they were bad. How wrong I was! And I love that you pair them with strawberries here!

serena said...

Could this be a matter of gender? I recently served a beet and orange salad at a dinner party and only the women ate it...

FoodieTots said...

Love love love. My husband is on the other side of the fence, though -- but I suspect he was scarred from a childhood of only encountering canned beets.

cindy said...

i adore beets!

Karen said...

When I was a kid, I wanted my beets on a separate plate so they wouldn't get the rest of my food all red! I love beets, canned or roasted and don't think they taste like dirt or tin. My hubby has the anti-cilantro gene... poor thing... he doesn't know what he's missing ;)

Sprigs of Rosemary said...

I love beets -- just about any ol' way. But I just planted them for the first time in my garden this year. Hoping for the best.
(I do not, however, like cilantro -- and I do love your writing and recipes.)

Jenni said...

I love beets but we always had them from our garden. I'm guessing that peoples first experiences kind of shape their memory of how beets taste, even if they aren't tasting "metallic" their minds tell them that 'this is what beets taste like, kind of like metal' Our minds do funny things! I'm glad to be giving my kids good fresh veggies! Hopefully they will grow to have good experiences as adults :)

Cookie baker Lynn said...

I do like beets, especially pickled beets in salads. My husband is firmly in the beets=dirt camp, though, so I don't buy beets. Unless a beet-loving friend were to come over for a salad, lunch....

d said...

i love beets! they're the first thing i get every year for my garden. personally, i like the "earthy" metallic flavor, though i've found that it's harder to detect once it's been boiled.

tasteofbeirut said...

Love beets Susan! Especially your salad!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

foodobsession-Seems like I have red fingers for most the spring. ;)

caroline-That's what a love to hear!

rj-Well, at least you gave them your best try. More for the rest of us. :)

thefrench-I do think our tastes change. There are definitely foods I love now that I didn't like as a kid. As for the cilantro haters, my mom is one who says it tastes just like soap. You gotta believe my mom! ;)

stacy-That's the spirit, my girl!

tw-I bet you are waiting eagerly with many delicious ideas. Enjoy!

kalyn-You should take me there with your sister when I visit SLC! ;)

sean-That is odd, but a good odd. Mums the word on my end.

melly-A commenter who rhymes? That's just cool.

lynda-First Melly rhymes and now you write a lovely imagistic comment. I'm just thrilled with you guys today! :)

meredith-I'm surprised you still love beets after having that awful school lunch. Clearly, you're a very smart girl.

lydia-I love them with oj today or even orange segments. Mmm....

joanne-You hang in there, girl!

snooty-I have never grown them, but I sure would if I had a garden. They're really versatile.

Susan from Food Blogga said...

linda-I'll take the tops then. I love 'em.

tripleb-Aren't all the various colors just sublime? I adore the greens too, especially with pasta and a cream sauce.

tasteatsathome-Then I hope you try it!

kim-I love the golden one too. They're even sweeter and usually more tender.

amy-They're worth the wait.

kate-I could never forget the greens. Ever! :) The chiogga are so appealing -- the eye candy of vegetables.

val-You must have made your mom so happy!

sarah-Well, that recipe you shared would convert any beet hater! Seriously. That sounds fabulous.

serena-Gee, I don't know. My husband and my dad love them!

foodietots-He's one of many, unfortunately.

cinderelly-Glad to hear it!

karen-That's funny. Sounds like something I would have done as a kid. Too bad about your husband and the cilantro, but good for you!

rosemary-Let me know how they turn out. That's exciting! Thank you so much for your kind words.

jenni-I love how invested you are in making sure your kids eat a variety of foods. It's so important to introduce them to many foods at a young age.

lynn-I'm a beet-loving friend, so I could come over for lunch.... ;)

d-I never boil them. I always roast them, and I don't taste any metallic flavor either. Now, I'm really wishing I had a garden!

tasteofbeirut-Well, thank you!

Johanna GGG said...

yes I love them - they are so versatile and add wonderful subtle flavour - earthy and sweet - I love the sound of your salad - in fact I love beets in salad but when it is hot I can't be done with boiling or roasting them - but am into roasting them now it is autumn here

Kara said...

I have to admit... beets scare me. I've never known how to handle or cook them! BUT with your instructions in hand, I just might tackle it because I actually do know that I like the little guys... especially in the salads I used to have in Dijon, France... laced with some light mustard vinaigrette (memories).

Anonymous said...

I love beets. From a hearty borscht in winter to a spring salad featuring jullianed beets with roasted walnuts, mint and raspberry vinegarette to old fashioned canned, can't go wrong to me!

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I don't like beets, but I don't think they taste like dirt or metal. I just don't like the way they taste. But I'm picky, so no one should listen to me.

Anonymous said...

I love "new" beets...the smaller the sweeter.
No dirt or metallic flavor! Serve with a dollap
of sour cream and sprig of fresh dill. I
do not like canned beets (metallic) nor large
dirty beets. The President probably never had
fresh grown baby beets and is missing
a great opportunity in his own back yard!

gigabiting said...

I am one of those soap-mouthed cilantro haters, but love the beets. No comparison. Beet-haters are just big old babies.

Goody said...

I adore beets. Fresh, tinned, roasted or boiled in borscht-love them all. I can't think of a better lunch than a slice of sourdough rye bread with sour cream and sliced beets-the best.

Besides, if you don't eat tinned beets, where do you get the juice for your pickled onions and eggs?

Alas, I live with two beet haters. Fools.

Miss Anne said...

I adore beetroot! Perfect roasted, peeled and tossed through with fetta cheese, lemon juice and toasted cumin seeds. When the first of the beetroot is in the markets and the weather is still cool I make borscht (the Russian beetroot soup). I've even been working on an idea for beetroot caramel (it's a long story ... any ideas welcome).

Justin said...

i think beets always look so beautiful, but i'm a hater. i've tried them so many times, but i just can't stand them. sigh...

Anna@Tallgrass Kitchen said...

I love that - dirt with sugar on top! I love beets, and am planting some tomorrow.

FOODESSA said...

I guess you must have beets and strawberries much sweeter that what I've been getting lately. Your interesting vinaigrette appears to be a little on the tart side ;0) I will wait to make this very intriguing combination...when the sweetness shines through later on in the season. This was my first time the visuals. Thanks for sharing, Claudia

Unknown said...

Love beets!! My fave is roasting, but sometimes I will just boil 1 or 2 cool and slice them and make a sandwith with sliced sharp cheddar cheese. Yeah, sounds nutso, but really good.

Jessica said...

Beets are like liver...They are something that I know is good for me, but.... That said, I have eaten beets that were added to a chocolate cake before and they were fine. But maybe that is because anything tastes better with chocolate?

The Teacher Cooks said...

I love beets prepared any way. I received them in my CSA box and roasted them with other root vegetables and to my amazement they were delicious!

Sophie said...

This is such a cool & lovely new way to enjoy spring beets! I so love beets!

I have a few recipes on my blog too!

i love them in spring & in wintertime!

We Are Not Martha said...

Oh, how I love me some fresh beets :) And that salad looks glorious! I just saw a recipe for "beet chips" that I'm dying to try out!


Maria said...

I love beets, greens and all. Beautiful salad!

Sarah said...

I love beets but hate cilantro...interesting! I will admit I do not know how to prepare fresh beets.

Any pointers?


Stephanie said...

I LOVE BEETS!!!! Love them nearly any way.
My kids do not. Nor does hubby.

Here's what works for us:
1-I buy a bunch of beets that has beautiful greens (or we get it in the CSA).
2-I grate a couple of the raw beets into a carrot salad. Grate about 1 beet for every 2 carrots, adding lemon juice, bit of olive oil, bit of salt. My daughter will eat an entire bowl of this!
3-The next time the oven is on, I wash the rest of the beets, wrap them in foil (hmm... should I be using parchment?), and throw them in the oven. Leave 'em there awhile. Then I eat them, 1/2 to 1 per day 'til they're gone!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

joanna-It's true. They don heat up the kitchen. Stay cool.

cara-Or you could just take a trip back to France to taste them again. :)

anonymous-Well, that's great. I have tried to like borscht, but so far, we're not friends.

shortdisordercook-We'll still listen. We'll eat our beets, but we'll still listen. ;)

anonymous-I bet you're right! I love dill on beets as well. Dill seed too!

gigabiting-Big babies, huh? Them's fightin' words. ;)

goody-OK. So there is a reason to buy canned beets after all. Just use the juice and not the beets though. For me. Pretty please? ;)

miss anne-Beet root caramel? Really? I'm intrigued.

justin-Well, it happens to the best of us. Sigh....

anna-Hope the planting went well!

claudia-Sweet as candy! Really. Thanks for the kind words.

george-Nutso? Maybe. But my husband would like that. Or even with blue cheese.

jessica-Yes. Everything DOES taste better with chocolate.

Susan from Food Blogga said...

teachercooks-They do get along well with other root veggies, especially drizzled with maple syrup.

sophie-I'm glad you like it!

sues-I want to make beet chips too. Love those crispy little guys!

maria-I love the greens too!

sarah-You can just simply roast them as I did for this salad and drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. You can roast them and drizzle with a horseradish cream, a honey-mustard vinaigrette, or blue cheese dressing. Just experiment! They're delicious!

stephanie-I love your #2 idea! I'm doing it this weekend once I buy my fresh beets. Really. That sounds so deliciously crunchy. And I do #3 all the time too. Chilled roasted beets make a wonderful snack.

Lori said...

Do I? and how. Let me count the ways I love beets, borscht, beet chips, canned in a vinegar brine, flavoring eggs... being the Polack I am, I guess it runs in my blood. As a kid I hated them- tasted like dirt.