The Beet Goes On In Moloa‘a

Ken Lindsey roots for beets. Daniel Lane photos

Ono Organics is a 10.6acre certified organic farm in Moloa’a. The garden is on 2.3 acres, and there are 70 species of fruit on the property.

Lindsey teaches the Sustainable Gardening and Farming Program, and Entrepreneurship in the Food Industry at Kaua’i Community College, where he also manages the campus garden.

What’s growing now: Apple bananas, arugula, avocados, beets, carrots, cherry tomatoes, eggplant, herbs, kale, lettuce, mango, radish, scallions, snow peas, sour sop, tomatillo.

BEETS

Ono Organics grows five types of beets: Chioggia, an Italian heirloom with alternating red and white concentric rings, white beets with lush green tops, golden beets with green tops, red beets with green tops and red beets with burgundy tops.

Beets are simple to prepare, and fresh beets are a sweet treat compared to their canned counterparts. Richly colored golden beets are milder than most red beets and don’t bleed as much. From leaf to stem and root, the entire plant is edible.

Season: Beets take 55 to 65 days from seed to table, and are available year-round at Kaua’i farmers markets.

Beets take 55-65 days from seed to table

What to look for: Look for smooth, hard, round beets that are not bruised and free of cuts. The taproot should be smooth and slender. Avoid beets with soft, moist spots or shriveled, flabby skin. Those with yellowed leaves have lost their nutritive value.

Storage: To reduce moisture loss from roots, cut off beet greens before storing. Unwashed roots will store in a plastic bag, in the refrigerator for up to three weeks. Store greens in the same fashion, and use within a few days.

Preparation: In the evening when the day’s heat has waned, I wrap the roots in tinfoil, place them in a heatproof dish and pop them into a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour. When a toothpick slides easily to the center, they are done.

Once cool, store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Cooked and cooled, the skin easily slips from the root, and I find washing my hands under warm, soapy water removes most of the red color.

Dice stems and add to a pan with diced onions and cook until softened. Stack the leaves on top of each other, slice into half-inch strips and add to the pan. Sautéed greens can be added to scrambled eggs and stir-fries.

Leaves are tender and nutritious

Roasting beets preserves color and nutrients, but they can be boiled or steamed. Preserve nutrients and color by cutting and peeling after the beets have been cooked.

Beets pair well with olive oil, butter, mustard oil, yogurt, sour cream, all vinegars, lemon, orange, lime, ginger, mustard, cumin, curry, horseradish, capers, chili, mint, parsley, dill, tarragon, onions and apples.

Health benefits: Beetroot contains 2 grams of protein per cup, and is an excellent source of heart-healthy folate and a very good source of manganese, vitamin C and potassium. Beets are a good source of dietary fiber, free radical-scavenging copper, bone-healthy magnesium, and energy-producing iron and phosphorus. The greens contain 0.7 grams of protein per cup, and are very high in vitamin A: At 2,308 IU they are 1,308 IU over the recommended daily intake for males aged 25-50 meaning they’re extra healthy. Red beets contain dietary cationized antioxidants called betalains that prevent oxidative processes, which contribute to the onset of degenerative disease. Betalains provide antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxification support.

Tip: For 14 percent of the population, eating beets will turn their urine or feces red. This is called beeturia, and can last for one to several days and is not considered harmful. There are conflicting studies as to cause, ranging from the inability to metabolize betacyanin pigments, preservation of the red color because of high levels of intestinal oxalic acid, and an indication of iron deficiency. Individuals with iron deficiency, iron excess or specific problems with iron metabolism are much more likely to experience beeturia than individuals with healthy iron metabolism.

Beetroot salad: You can’t beat it. Daniel Lane photos

Ono Organics can be found at: Farmers Market: Namahana Farmers Market in Kilauea (Monday, 4 p.m. to dusk, and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.); Kaua’i Community Market at Kaua’i Community College (Saturdays at 9:30 a.m.). Grocery: Hoku Foods Natural Market and local produce distributor Cultivate. For more information, call 346-7090.

BEETROOT WITH FRESH MINT

Lindsey shares his favorite recipe for beets, which makes a beautiful addition to a Valentine’s dinner table. Serve with seared chicken or fish, or for a vegetarian option, serve with a quinoa pilaf.

* 4 to 6 cooked beets
* 1 to 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
* 1 bunch fresh mint, leaves stripped and thinly shredded
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* salt
* pepper

Slice beets or cut into even-size dice with a sharp knife. Put beets into a bowl. Add vinegar, oil, a pinch of salt and pepper and toss together to combine. Add half the mint to the salad and toss lightly until thoroughly combined.

Place salad in the refrigerator and chill for one hour. Serve garnished with remaining mint leaves.

Makes four servings.

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