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You Can't “Beet” ‘em!

By Mark Mulcahy

An old produce adage is that you can’t beat beets. Well, the truth is you can. You see the beet greens are actually higher in nutrition than the beets themselves. Beet greens have nearly 2 times the potassium of the root along with some calcium and phosphorus. They are high in beta-carotene, (a valuable disease fighting antioxidant). They contain high levels of folic acid, which is an essential nutrient for pregnant women to help prevent birth defects. And, if that wasn’t enough, there have been studies that show that these nutritious greens can actually lessen a smoker’s desire for nicotine… hey, maybe a produce patch will take on a whole new meaning in the future?

Just because the greens are such a powerhouse doesn’t mean the root isn’t worth eating. Beetroots are a valuable part of any diet. Like many roots, they contain a good amount of vitamin C, are rich in silicon, and fiber. Their medicinal properties are many; beneficial to the heart and liver, they also provide a calming effect on the nerves, improve circulation, and promote healthy menstruation. With this in mind, it’s easy for everyone to want to keep the beet (pun intended!).

Keeping the beat with this year’s holiday planning is what got me thinking about beets in the first place. I just completed my interim General Manager assignment at Wild Oats Co-op in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and before I left, the board president made one of the best pies I’ve ever had. Or at least in the top 5! When he handed it to me and I saw its beautiful red color I thought, raspberries? But it was too late in the season for them. Then he suggested I think more seasonally and sure enough the main ingredient was beets. I know your first thought is, beets? It was mine too! Then, everything changed when I took my first bite. Think pumpkin pie texture with a sweet slightly earthy flavor. It was delicious! So, if you are up for trying an unconventional pie for an unconventional holiday season, you won’t be disappointed having this for dessert. Enjoy the holidays!

Sweet Beet Pie - Adapted from Paul Hollywood, BBC Food
(About the measurements - it's important to weigh the beets and the sugar.)

This recipe makes one deep-dish 9-inch pie, serves 8

One package store-bought pie crust
Melissa’s organic fresh beets (12 oz.), cooked and peeled
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 large eggs
6 ounces muscovado sugar, packed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 large lemon, finely zested
Whipped cream for serving

Preheat the oven according to pastry package instructions. Bake pastry according to package directions. Set aside to cool slightly.

For the filling:

Turn the oven down to 350º F.

If you have never cooked beets before, try roasting your beets with a drizzle of olive oil. Roasting concentrates the beets flavor, preserves the beautiful red color and brings out their sweetness from its natural sugars (as high as 8%percent).

Once cooked remove from the oven and let them cool to the touch. Remove the skins, which will slip off easily.

Roughly chop the beets and put into a food processor with the cream. Blend to a thick purée. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together thoroughly. Add the beet purée, spices and lemon zest and mix well. Pour the mixture into the baked pie shell (if the edges of your pie crust are already browned, cover them with some foil to keep from burning) and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the filling is set with a slight wobble in the middle. Leave to cool completely.

To serve, slice and top with whipped cream.
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