Vegetables grow… it’s what they naturally do. But one versatile root vegetable has grown in another way: adoption on restaurant menus. The earthy, rich red beet shows up on nearly 1/5 of restaurant menus, growing 24% over the past 4 years. Could this robust bulb find a place on your menu soon?
Beets hold up to nearly any cooking method and stand out in nearly any dish, so chefs have been stretching it to its limits with delectable results. Though a standout in the fall, it can be enjoyed anytime when prepared by the most capable hands.
Many restaurant diners are only used to beets on salads, but there are so many more possibilities with the vibrant bulb (and even its edible greens). Native to the Mediterranean, beets have been a food source from ancient times—not just because it’s a healthy food, but for medicinal and even aphrodisiac properties. Europeans made it a staple by roasting them beginning in the 1800s. Today, chefs are freeing beets from mere salad topping and employing other methods of preparation, including the European-favored roasting, but adding pickled, candied, fermented, and juiced varieties. Perhaps the most surprising applications are beets as a meat alternative and a key ingredient in cocktails.
With creative minds the possibilities seem endless, but for some, one bad past beet experience can make a patron timid. Chefs note, however, that with the variety of beets (from deep red, to candy-striped, and more) come a variety of flavors. New recipes and applications mean it’s very likely that even the most beet-averse will find a delectable beet-based dish.
The growing interest in using beets in cuisine can be traced to the explosion of demand for healthier options, both for omnivorous and vegetarian/vegan diets. Packed with nutrients, but low in calories, beets are noted to support healthy blood pressure, physical performance, reduced inflammation, digestive and brain health, and weight loss. Their antioxidants are also a great choice for a cancer-preventative diet.
Beets have proven to be a full-flavored nutritious choice that chefs not only add to menus but build entire dishes around. As demand for vegetable-based—but not bland—cuisine grows this gorgeous root vegetable is coming to the fore and can take a starring role in numerous variations: from sweet cocktails to savory meatless entrees, beets… it’s what’s for dinner.
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