Fermes Leclair et Frères Ltée.
To this day, marinated or pickled beets are a common sight on the table at Quebecers’ family meals. While that way of serving them remains popular, in recent years beets have found their rightful place in the repertoires of a number of bold chefs who use them in all kinds of recipes that make the most of their soft, sweet flesh. Some food historians trace beets’ origins to the Mediterranean coast and others place them in Northern Africa. They’ve have been grown in North America since the colonial era—in fact, Jacques Cartier himself is said to have introduced the root vegetables to our shores, having brought seeds along on one of his Atlantic crossings.
While red beets are the best-known, older varieties such as yellow beet and Chioggia beet are also popular with consumers. Eaten above all for their great taste, beets are also very nutritious. They are a source of fibre, vitamins A and C, calcium, potassium, iron, phosphorus and folic acid, and contain plenty of antioxidants, which can help prevent certain types of cancer and degenerative diseases. To preserve flavour, colour and nutrients as much as possible, beets are best cooked with the skin on.
Did you know that beet greens (the leafy tops) taste great and are healthy as well? At Fermes Leclair, we market beets on leaves as well as bagged beets. The greens can be eaten raw or cooked like spinach, and aren’t bitter at all. They are rich in calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, vitamin K, fibre and a type of carotenoid, a fat-soluble pigment that may have benefits for eyesight.
Beets keep extremely well in the refrigerator; you simply have to make sure to remove the greens. So don’t hesitate to stock up!
The ever-popular red beet is easy to prepare and its spectacular colour is as useful for dyeing clothes as it is a sign of antioxidants. Those antioxidants are actually contained in betalains, which are plant pigments; so the compound that our noses can detect even at very low concentrations. All that’s needed to completely remove this compound is to add an acid—which probably explains why pickled beets are so popular.
With its orangey skin and brilliant yellow flesh, the yellow (or golden) beet is softer and less sweet than its purple counterpart. While some people prefer it because it doesn’t stain, many choose it simply because it’s so great tasting and blends wonderfully well with a host of culinary creations. Plus, even when cooked, it keeps its lovely colour.
Taking its name from a seaside town in Italy, the Chioggia beet is slightly sweet and beautiful at the same time. With its vibrant pink skin and white flesh with red rings, it’s decorative yet delicate, tasty and easily digestible. The only catch? Cooking changes its pigmentation; although the flavour isn’t affected, it can be a little disappointing to look at. That’s all the more reason to try it raw!