The Beet Goes On

produce (noun, uncountable):
fruit, vegetables, and other things that farmers grow
Macmillan Dictionary

Skipping lightly past definitions that include items “made” as well as “grown” — the better to bolster my point — I note mildly that my local grocery store seems confused about the meaning of “produce (noun, uncountable),” offering me processed food in the Fresh Produce section. I have grown accustomed to finding crushed garlic and ginger in plastic tubes as well as preservative-free salad dressings in glass jars, all side-by-each with the unstale/uncooked/unmade oranges, romaine, and turnips/rutabagas. But now I also find beets vacuum-packed in plastic and wrapped in cardboard. 

Label from cooked beets box

According to the marketers, though, these are not just beets. No, they’re cooked beets. Ready-to-eat beets (You’re good with room temperature, yeah?). Non-GMO beets. Kosher beets. Gluten-free beets. No-preservatives beets. Born-in-the-USA beets.

Although it’s hardly a comprehensive list — there’s not a word about fat, sugar, ancient grains, dairy, lactose, organic-ness, or free-range-ness — it’s a wide net the marketers are casting and I still elude much of it.

For example, I’m generally not concerned about kosher foods and admit that I don’t even think about kosher when it comes to vegetables. (Are these beets halal, too? I’m guessing not but it can only be a matter of time.) My GMO-give-a-damn likewise falls somewhere between slim and nil, and Slim just left town. As for gluten-free, is anyone really selling beets with gluten added? By contrast, the no-preservatives claim matters to me or so I like to think, but with kettle chips in my grocery cart I can’t credibly claim to holding to a natural-foods standard.

Yet even though only some of the marketers’ siren song speaks to me, some is enough. Grown-in-the-USA carries the day because I really do care about avoiding the heavy metals I understand can be in rice and produce from China. Yup, avoiding heavy-metal contamination is right up there with the convenience of not having to boil and peel beets my own self.

Just shut up.
You had me at cooked.
Jerry Maguire (as edited)

 

12 Comments

  1. Alison Uhrbach

    We grow a LOT of beets, and cooking them is a messy affair that I’d just as soon avoid. I’ve gotten around the problem by convincing my husband to become a “beet cooking specialist”. So, although I don’t buy them, I DO appreciate the convenience of having my beets already ” cooked” for me.

  2. John Whitman

    Isabel – marketing seems to have devolved so as to cater to the average attention span and comprehension of the average millennial, I.e. what fits into a tweet.

    1. Isabel Gibson

      John – That could be. I have an old tin that used to contain “mint lumps” and the tagline was: “From where the mint and the lavender grow.” Imagine: a whole phrase. And just one.

  3. I love beets. Not sure if those things are still beets – did you try them? I learned how to can and pickle just to preserve beets and green beans because they don’t freeze well. Last summer I made a beet salsa that is fabulous – even better than straight pickled beets.

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Judith – Yes, we’ve eaten them and they’re better than canned in my view, but I wouldn’t swear I could distinguish in a blind taste test. Beet salsa sounds fabulous.

  4. Lorna P Shapiro

    Turns out Jamie Oliver uses packaged cooked beets all the time and has some good recipes for them. Google it! I’ve never seen them myself and was surprised the first couple of times I saw him pulling out a bag of cooked beets to prepare something. The recipes are simple and sound good.

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