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Residents rediscover edible roots
Beets full of vitamins, few calories
Billy and Latrelle Thomas pick beets in their garden Monday morning at their North Hall County home. The Thomases sell some of their vegetables at the Hall County Farmer’s Market. The couple sold out all of their beets in the first hour of the market Saturday.

FARM FRESH SERIES: This is the first in a series of stories about local growers who provide Hall County with fresh produce and their own recipes.

Roasted beets
Cut the top off the beet to leave about an inch and the tail. Don’t cut the tail off, because it bleeds.
Pour olive oil on the beet and wrap in aluminum foil.
Put in oven at 350 degrees for an hour. Skin should slide off when done.

Refrigerator beet pickles
3 small sliced roasted beets
2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 cups water
2 cups of granulated sugar
1 tablespoon whole pickling spices
Combine sugar and vinegar in medium saucepan. Tie spices in small piece of cheesecloth and place in saucepan. Simmer for 15 minutes.
Discard spices and add liquid to beets.
Place covered in refrigerator. Let stand a week before eating. It will keep 2 or 3 months.

By eight o’clock Saturday morning, Bill and Latrelle Thomas had already sold all of their beets.

While area farmers’ markets have had a slow start this year “on account of the weather,” Billy Thomas said beets are getting a bit more attention than they have in the past.

The couple tend a large garden at their North Hall County home where they grow fresh flowers, onions, potatoes, cabbage, tomatoes, beans, okra and squash. The Thomases have been selling their fresh-grown produce every week for the past 10 years at the original Hall County Farmer’s Market.

The market on Jesse Jewell Parkway and Interstate 985 opens at 6 a.m. Tuesday and 7 a.m. Saturdays until sell out, usually around 10 a.m.

The couple said they think people are becoming more interested in shopping at farmers’ markets because of the cultural emphasis on eating fresh local foods.

“(Beets are) just one of the things that are beginning to come in and people are starting to realize just how good they are for you,” Latrelle said.

Leslie Davis, bariatric program dietitian at Northeast Georgia Medical Center, said beets “really are one of the power foods.” Both the root and the leaves can be eaten and are a smorgasbord of vitamins and minerals. Davis said the greens are full of vitamins A, K, C and magnesium and are a good source of B vitamins, potassium iron and calcium. The roots are rich in folic acid, iron, nitrates, fiber, potassium, vitamin C and magnesium.

Davis said several studies have shown how the vegetable is beneficial to pregnant women by preventing neural tube defects in babies, is a natural antacid and improves oxygen use in the body. Other studies suggest the plant may be able to prevent colon cancer and heart disease.

The plants are low in calories, too, making it an excellent choice for dieters. A half cup of boiled beets has only 37 calories, is low in fat, and has fiber and protein.

Plus, beet red is a pretty color on any plate.

“What we advise as dietitians is to make your plate real colorful and of course to eat a combination of five fruits and vegetables a day,” Davis said. “Beets are something wonderful to add into a nice colorful salad on a plate. I think some people maybe have a negative connotation so I always encourage people to try new things and to look for recipes so they can try them in different ways than they may have had them before.”

Davis said most of the people she talks to have only tried pickled beets. She encourages them to look for recipes that sound good to them and find ways to sneak the plant into meals.

“There’s a lot of great recipes,” Davis said. “People use them in salads with goat cheese. People have even used the root for hummus. You’ll find more and more ways that people are eating them since they’re kind of just ‘being discovered’ I guess you could say.”

The greens are tasty, too, and can be sautéed in olive oil with a little garlic and balsamic vinegar.

Latrelle Thomas said she likes to keep a folder of recipe ideas for people to look through while they’re shopping at the market.

She prefers roasting the roots.

“They’re better doing that than boiling them,” Latrelle said. “The skin will just slide off after you undo them. Then I slice them or you can do whatever you want to with them. I like mine just plain without any vinegar or anything.”

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