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Beet greens are the large green leaves of the beet plant that grow above ground. They are the only part of the plant that is visible, because the reddish-purple beetroot grows underground. Beetroots themselves are rich in nutritional benefits, but the greens should not be overlooked or discarded because they too contain a wealth of vitamins and other nutrients. Generally, beet greens are cooked in a fashion similar to their counterparts spinach and Swiss chard.
The leaves of the beetroot, known as the beet greens, are large, dark green leaves that usually have visible reddish veins and sturdy stalks running up the center. Fresh beat greens should embody all of these characteristics, and should also be crisp and able to support their own weight. Greens that are limp or wilted, excessively wrinkled, have yellowed edges, or are slimy are past their prime and not as high quality. Some grocery stores sell the greens that have been removed from the beetroot, cleaned, cut, and bagged, whereas others sell the whole plant intact, with the greens still attached to the beetroot.
If the greens are already processed at the time of purchase, they are generally ready to cook, although they would most likely benefit from another quick rinse under running water to remove any lingering dirt. Beet greens that are still attached to the beetroot take a little more prep time, but are still quite easy to prepare. The beetroot should be cut free from the stems and set aside for future use. The leaves should be separated, and if necessary, any particularly woody stems or stalks that might be difficult to eat should be cut away. Then the leaves should be washed thoroughly under cool running water, and patted dry with a towel.
Generally, the most common preparation of beet greens is sautéing or steaming, similar to cooking spinach or Swiss chard leaves. Roughly chopped leaves can be added to a large pan and sautéed over medium heat with butter or oil, along with any other desired additives such as garlic, onions, or a little meat for flavoring. Recipe options abound, so the culinary options are plentiful. Usually recipes call for what may seem like a very large amount of raw greens, but due to their high water content, the greens will cook down dramatically and the bulk will reduce significantly.
Nutritionally, beet greens are very low in calories, fat, and cholesterol, which makes them a healthy dietary addition. The greens contain significant amounts of several vitamins, most notably high amounts of the vitamins C and A. Additionally, these greens are a good source of calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium, and the leaves are a great source of dietary fiber.