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Dining In: Sweet-tart Harvard beets


Beets fall into the love-them-or-hate-them category of vegetables; either you love them or you hate them.

I disliked them on principle as a child, probably because of how they looked. Anything that dark and red couldn’t possible taste good, right?

My sisters ate them, but I shunned beets for years, until I got married. My husband and in-laws love beets, especially Harvard beets, the way their mother made them when they were growing up.

Since then I have learned to cook and to love beets, especially when served with the sweet-tart flavor that comes when served Harvard style.

I also appreciate the nutrition they offer. In addition to being low in calories with only 59 in a one-cup serving, they are a good source of potassium and contain vitamin C and dietary fiber.

Almost fat-free, they also contain small amounts of protein, folate, vitamin B, magnesium and manganese. Attesting to their value as a healthy vegetable,, says studies have shown that beets can significantly lower blood pressure, fight inflammation and improve athletic performance.

People have been eating beets since before written history, although for many years they only ate the greens, sautéing them as we do Swiss chard. By the 1800s French chefs discovered the value of the bulky root, and today we are more likely to eat those than the leafy tops.

Fall is a great time of year for beets; they can be harvested up until the ground freezes, and some farmers leave them in the ground after the first frost, using the earth as a kind of natural refrigerator. Farmers also say that after the first frost beets and other vegetables become sweeter because they develop more sugars.

Fall is also the time of year when we think about other root vegetables including parnsips, turnips and rutabagas, all of which are available at local farm markets.

This recipe from gives the option of using fresh or canned beets. In the Yeske family, we have been known to do both with very good results. Beets are also good roasted and served with butter.

Quick Harvard Beets

3 cups sliced raw beets

or 2 cans (16 ounces each)

sliced beets

½ cup sugar

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

½ cup white vinegar

½ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons butter

1. In a saucepan, place raw beets and enough water to cover. Cook until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain, reserving ¼ cup liquid. (If using canned beets, drain and reserve ¼ cup juice.)

2. In another saucepan, combine sugar, flour, vinegar and reserved beet juice. Cook over low heat until thickened. Stir in beets, salt and butter. Simmer for 10 minutes.