Beet greens are young, leafy-tops of the beetroot plant. Indeed, beet tops carry more minerals, vitamins and health benefiting pigment antioxidants than its taproot, and yet they come as one of the very low calories leafy-greens. Although its top greens can be gathered at any stage of plant growth, they are at their best while the plant is young, and its stems are soft and tender. Its scientific name is Beta vulgaris.

The beet plant is a wonderful season crop in Albania and it reaches about 1 to 2 feet in height. Depending upon the cultivar type, its long-petioled leaves may feature pink, light green, white and crimson red veins and broad, deep-green succulent leaves. Its top greens are most sought after while young, tender and crispy.

Health benefits of beet greens

- Beet tops are one of very versatile, nutritious green-leafy vegetables. The greens indeed very low in calories; 100 grams hold just 22 calories. Nonetheless, they are one of the healthiest greens recommended in the diet for their low fat, no cholesterol but health benefiting vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants.

- Beet greens carry more minerals, vitamins, and fiber than beetroot (except for the folate vitamin), yet they are low in calories, fat and sugar.

- Beet greens are the finest sources of ß-carotene, lutein and zea-xanthin.

- The top greens are an excellent sources of vitamin-A; 100 g leaves provide, 211% of RDA. Vitamin-A is required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin, and is essential for vision.

- The greens are an excellent vegetable sources of vitamin-K; 100 g provides 400 ug of this vitamin; that is about 333% of recommended daily intake.

- 100 g of fresh leaves contain 30 mg or 50% of daily-recommended levels of vitamin C.

- This leafy vegetable is notably good in many B-complex groups of vitamins such as riboflavin, folate, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin, pantothenic acid, etc., that are essential to the body.

- Its leaves are also rich source of minerals like magnesium, copper, calcium, sodium, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus.

- High quality nutrition profile of beet greens offer protection from vitamin A deficiency, osteoporosis, iron-deficiency anemia, and believed to protect from cardiovascular diseases.

Selection and storage

Beetroot tops can be readily available in the farmer markets around the year. However, they are at their best during winter months, from November till March. Generally, its top greens are tied in bunches and sold along with their taproot. In that case, look for small, healthy, firm roots.

Treat them like chard, spinach or turnip greens. To store, keep them in a perforated plastic bag and place inside the refrigerator set at relative humidity of over 95%. In this condition, its greens stay fresh and vital for about 2-3 days.

Preparation and serving methods

Beets greens feature very broad leaves akin to swiss chard, with long and sometimes broad, thick petioles. However, large mature leaves are quite bitter in taste as they contain lots of oxalic acid, and should be eaten cooked, sautéed, steamed or braised.

Here are some serving tips:

- Beet greens complements well with other greens such as chard, spinach, kale etc. They can be employed in the preparation of soups, ravioli, pasta, sandwiches, pizza, omelette, and stuffed bread and quiche, etc.

- Tender, fresh and young greens can be juiced into a healthy drink. However, since beet greens rather contain high amounts of oxalic acid, it should be subdued with other greens and vegetable like cucumber and fruits like lime, oranges etc.

- Fresh, very young and crispy beet greens can be used raw in salads. Mature leaves and stalks are typically cooked or sautéed./AgroWeb.org