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Crop Spot: Beets

Beets deserve the spotlight for their funky exterior and sweet flavor alone, but add to that their superfood level nutrition, versatility in the kitchen and hearty growing characteristics and it’s easy to see that they’re a truly incredible vegetable. Past enjoying them in the kitchen, you can also use for dying fabrics and for Valentine’s day card making. 

In the Garden:

Beets can be grown all season long because they’re tolerant to most growing temperatures in Michigan. They require about 7-10 hours of sunlight daily, but too much heat can stress them out. Companion planting with something like beans or kohlrabi is a great way to help mitigate this. Like most root vegetables, beets are hearty so they can grow in a variety of soil types, however they’ll develop stronger and more uniformly in well-draining rich, loose soils. Be sure to water regularly to keep the bulb from cracking or getting too woody. 

In the Medicine Cabinet:

Beets really shine when it comes to nutritional benefits. Both the leaves and the root are packed with antioxidants and phytonutrients that may fight cell damage, reduce inflammation, and lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. They are a good source of essential vitamins and minerals, including: folate, manganese, vitamin C, potassium and iron. Plus, beets are naturally high in fiber and naturally occurring nitrates – compounds converted to nitric oxide which can improve blood flow and lower blood pressure.

In the Kitchen:

Beets are believed to have first grown along the coasts of the Mediterranean and were originally cultivated for their edible leaves! Today, they are favored for both the root and greens. People peel the vegetable in different ways but either way works; you can use a vegetable peeler and then cook after or boil them first and shock them in cold water to quickly remove the skin by hand. Beets are naturally sweet and make a fun, feel-good addition to sweets like this delicious chocolate cake. 

Photo Credit: Bon Appetit. Photo By Alex Lau, Food Styling By Susie Theodorou.

Heartbeet Chocolate Cake

Adapted from Bon Appetit

CAKE

• 4 medium beets, scrubbed*
• 2 Tbsp. virgin coconut oil, plus more for pan
• ½ cup cocoa powder, plus more for pan
• 1½ cups flour
• ½ tsp. baking soda
• ½ tsp. baking soda
• ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
• 2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
• 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
• 1 tsp. vanilla extract
• 4 large eggs
• 1¼ cups (packed) light brown sugar
• 1 tsp. kosher salt
*you really only need 2 beets worth, but having extra can help if you accidentally add too much water to the beet puree.

GLAZE

• 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
• 1 Tbsp. virgin coconut oil
• ¼ tsp. vanilla extract
• Pinch of kosher salt

DIRECTIONS

Peel the beets and cut into quarters, then cook the beets in a medium pot of boiling unsalted water until tender (about 30-40 minutes). Drain and rinse under cold water. Transfer to a blender to create the puree, you’ll only need 1 cup of puree so you may reserve the additional beets whole or in pureed form. Add 1 Tbsp. water at a time as needed, until smooth. Should be the consistency of applesauce. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8” round cake pan with parchment paper. Grease with oil and dust with cocoa powder.

Whisk flour, baking soda, cinnamon and remaining ½ cup cocoa powder in a medium bowl; set aside

Heat chocolate with 2 Tbsp. oil in a medium heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring often, until melted. Remove from heat. Stir in vinegar, vanilla and 1 cup of beet puree until smooth. 

Beat eggs, brown sugar, and salt in the large bowl of a stand mixer and whisk on medium-high until it has increased in volume and holds a ribbon for several seconds. (5-7 minutes)

Pour chocolate-beet mixture into egg mixture and beat on medium-low speed until combined. Gently tip in dry ingredients and beat at the lowest speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl, until combined. 

Transfer batter to pan. Bake cake until the tester comes out clean (45-50 Minutes). Let cool for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around the edges and invert cake on a wire rack to continue cooling.  

Now onto the glaze: heat chocolate, oil, vanilla and salt in a medium heatproof bowl set over the saucepan, same way as before until melted. Let cool just enough, so that it’s thickened but still easy to pour.

Pour glaze over the center of the cake and tilt the rack to allow drips to run over the sides. Eat warm, or let set to harden. 

Tricia Phelps is the CEO of Taste the Local Difference. Contact her at tricia@localdifference.org

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Sources:

  1. https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-beetroot#1
  2. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/beetroot#vitamins-and-minerals
  3. https://www.cultivatemichigan.org/featured-foods/foods/beets 
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  in Agriculture, Crop Spot, DIY, Health, Recipes, Tricia Phelps