A roasted beet is a savory root vegetable known for its rich, earthy flavor and nutritional benefits. Cooks can prepare a beet vegetable in a variety of ways, but a roasted beet is cooked in the oven. Also called beetroot or garden beets, this tuberous vegetable boasts high levels of folate, an important B vitamin. Beets contain manganese and potassium, provide cancer-fighting antioxidants, and are naturally low in calories and fat.
Color is one of the most attractive features of a roasted beet. The most well-known type of beet boasts a deep purplish red color, but some beets are a rich golden shade and others have dark pink-and-white stripes. Beets grow underground, and they are topped with large, dark-green leaves with thick red ribs. Similar to Swiss chard, beet greens are delicious when sauteed and offer buttery good taste and high nutrients.
Beets should be purchased with the leaves still attached. Most grocery stores display raw beets in the produce department, and they are usually sold in bunches. Local supermarkets typically carry red beets, but health-food stores and farmers' markets frequently sell different varieties, such as golden beets. Harvest season runs from June to October, so these months offer the best time to purchase beetroot.
Cooks choose to roast beets because the roasting process brings out the dramatic flavor of the vegetable. Even amateur chefs can prepare a roasted beet side dish. Beets should be cleaned before roasting and cooked in a sturdy roasting pan with a tight-fitting cover. Most recipes recommend preheating the oven to 400°F (about 204°C) while preparing the beets for cooking. Prep includes cutting the leaves off the beetroot, leaving about 1 or 2 inches attached.
The one drawback to the roasted beet is how long it takes to cook compared with other vegetables. Small beets take roughly 40 minutes to cook in a 400°F (about 204°C) oven. Larger beets can take even longer, perhaps up to 90 minutes, until the roasted beet dish is cooked to complete tenderness. Roasted beets have finished cooking when they can be pricked with a fork. Red beets tend to share the wealth when cooking, so vegetables mixed with the roasted beet might come out of the oven bearing a tinge of red.
Some debate surrounds the idea that an organic beet offers added health benefits. Since beets are a root vegetable, they grow beneath the soil. Therefore, beetroots are not exposed to pesticides and other chemicals sprayed onto growing vegetables. Root vegetables might be exposed to toxins in the soil, however, so an organic beet may offer some protection from soil-based contaminants.