Saturday, June 30, 2012

Golden beets -- bait and switch

My husband came home from the farmer's market last week with a bunch of golden beets and I was thrilled.  They were absolutely beautiful -- warm red-orange on the outside, mottled gold on the inside.  I could hardly restrain my excitement as I scrubbed and sliced them.

Decided to put them in the oven for roasting, and an hour or so later, when they seemed to be done, I was disappointed.  The surface that had been in contact with the olive-oil-coated pan was brown and appealing, but the surfaces left open in the oven had turned an unappetizing purplish-yellow.

We ate them, of course, but they tasted almost exactly like plain old red beets, namely delicious.

A couple of days later I served up the leftovers cold, fixed with a mustard-olive oil-lemon juice dressing.  They were probably a little better in this incarnation than in their previous warm life.

This script has played out many times in my life -- I buy fresh beets, expecting them to turn out really special, and they turn out kind of normal.  Frankly, I've never noticed much qualitative difference between fresh roasted beets and beets straight from the can.  I love them both.

In fact, earlier this month my friend Alyce served a wonderful salad with beets as the featured ingredient.  After we had raved about it, she confessed that the beets were canned.  We all agreed that they were just fine.

Why do I keep buying the fresh varieties, spending time on preparation and roasting, when I could open a can in one minute and heat them up in three?  The mystique of the farmer's market, the seductive allure of fresh over processed, keeps winning out over the voice of experience.


  1. Hmm. Beets fresh from my garden then oven roasted taste different from the can...Perhaps it has to do with the freshness? Although one would expect that farmer's market ones would be pretty fresh.

    To me, fresh has a more earthy taste...I don't get that as strongly with the can. However, I do use canned beets for my Russian Winter Salad and Harvard Beets. My daughter will eat those, but NOT fresh ones which I have roasted or whatever as she complains they "taste like dirt!"

  2. Lisa -- I guess there's a little difference between fresh roasted and canned, but not a whole lot. at least not enough difference to make it worth my while to fix the fresh.

    I say that, but am such a sucker for the image that I'll probably buy fresh again and again.

  3. Also there's a coating in cans that likely causes cancer.

  4. Clairan -- I spent some time googling after reading your comment. You're right that BPA in can linings is questionable, but it's probably an overstatement to say it likely causes cancer. Apparently more of an issue is that the chemical mimics estrogens and thus screws up hormones, which is why the government has banned its use in baby bottles, sippy cups and other products for children.

    BPA is also more problematic if the container is microwaved or washed in the dishwasher, neither of which applies to canned foods. I would probably be more worried if I had small children around, but for now I'm sticking with my canned foods. Fortunately canned goods aren't as much a staple in our diet as they were fifty years ago, thank heavens! Hope they come up with a substitute for the BPA.