By Christine Zellers, MPP, Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Cape May County, Family & Community Health Sciences
In the cooler months root vegetables such as beets and turnips are hearty in New Jersey. Both offer vitamins, minerals and nutrients that provide needed health benefits during the cold fall and winter months. Roasted, raw or pickled beets and turnips are tasty and filling during the winter months and supply a protective immunity boost during cold and flu season.
Every part of a beet can be consumed including roots, stem and leaves which boasts a bounty of nutritious benefits. Additionally, beets come in various colors such as yellow, pink, white and dark purple and the beautiful colors give them powerful nutrients to fight chronic disease. When preparing beets think about how to use the entire plant, the root can be roasted or eaten raw by shredding it onto salads or soups, the stem is often prepared like swiss chard or bok choy and can be sautéed with the leaves of the beets and some garlic. The leaves themselves are delicious as a tart salad uncooked and pair well with a strong dressing and sharp cheese. Pickled beets are a preserving favorite and should be canned by hot packing the beets. The leaves of beets as well as turnips can be preserved by blanching and freezing them. Beets are a good source of Magnesium which helps control blood sugar levels, muscle development and blood pressure while the potassium in beets support good heart health. Beets provide good Iron intake that helps transport oxygen in the red blood cells of our body. The Vitamin C in beets supports a healthy immune system. Beets provide benefits for the body’s over all function and contribute greatly to a healthy lifestyle, enjoy beets as the winter months approach to stay strong this winter.
Much like beets turnips are a good addition to a fall and winter menu when searching for versatile veggies. Turnips can be eaten raw or cooked and the roots and leaves are edible. When cooking turnips try using them as a substitute for mashed potatoes as their flavor is like a potato. Raw they make a nice substitute for cabbage in a slaw or shredded as a salad topping. If the greens are wilted soaking them in cold water for a few minutes will bring turnip greens as well as beet greens back to a crispy edible dish. Preserving turnips has similar recommendations to beets with a hot packing when pickling and blanching and freezing for turnip greens. Turnips pack a healthy nutrient dense vegetable choice, like beets, turnip greens contain folate which helps with normal tissue growth and assists with cell functions. Folate is especially important for pregnant women as it helps with fetal development during pregnancy. Turnip greens are full of vitamin K and vitamin A. K is essential for blood clotting and helps prevent excessive bleeding. A is great for eye, skin, and lung health. Additionally, turnips contain vitamin C and calcium making this root veggie a filling and worthwhile choice as a cool weather vegetable.
Both beets and turnips were featured in the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Cape May County’s series Eat What You Grow. This series was conducted virtually and was a collaboration between RCE’s Family and Community Health Sciences and Agriculture and Natural Resources departments. All three of these informational sessions on growing, preparing, and preserving vegetables at home can be viewed at the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Cape May County’s website.
ROASTED BEET SALAD WITH FETA
- 5-6 Beets
- 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
- 1/2 red onion, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 3/4 cup, crumbled feta cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
To roast beets, preheat oven to 400°. Wash beets and cut/remove leaves and stems. Cut piece of aluminum foil, large enough to hold beets. Toss beets with olive oil to coat on foil, fold sides around beets to create a packet. Roast in oven for 1 – 1 ½ hours, depending on the size of the beets, until tender. Remove from oven and open packet, allowing them to cool. When cool enough to handle, peel skins and cut into 1/2” pieces. Add red onion, salt and pepper, and refrigerate until cold. Before serving, add crumbled feta to beets and onions. Toss gently together.