When I recently visited a friend in Phoenix, she surprised me with a wonderful feast made with organic ingredients from her garden that made me feel like a royal guest. I had lucked out, not only because whatever she and her significant other cook is always fabulous and practically bordering on gourmet food, but because they were detoxing. So the focus was on fresh foods with lots of vegetables and no gluten, dairy, or red meats, which fit my diet plan perfectly.
As I relaxed on her new patio watching the desert sun set, my husband and I sipped on refreshing cucumber spa water and enjoyed dipping cool cucumber slices into the baba ganoush, a Middle Eastern dish made with roasted egg plants that’s similar to hummus, but even better. She then asked if we liked kale chips. Bring ’em on we said. We were shocked and delighted to see her bring out a plate of kale chips stacked — no kidding — about 6 inches high! They were the biggest kale chips we’ve ever seen and definitely the best we’ve ever had.
What I really liked about them is that she didn’t break up or cut the leaves as most recipes suggest you do. Also, she didn’t just toss them in oil. Instead, she kept them whole and said she wiped each leaf with garlic oil.
As we feasted on the crisp, crunchy chips, I learned she had used some beet leaves as well. Knowing that I had beets back home growing in my garden, I was convinced that when they were ready to harvest that I must try to make some beet leaf chips as well! Hers were fantastic, so if I could make something half as good, I’d be happy.
Well, today was harvest time! Much to my surprise, my beets managed to grow so fast even though I planted them just over a month ago. So I pulled most of them up realizing I had to do something with them. I’ll probably make some beets for a side dish and use the rest for juicing. In terms of figuring out what to do with the leaves, that part was easy. Beet leaf chips were a no brainer. I made ’em and they were delish! But before we get into how to prepare them, which is so easy by the way, let’s talk a little bit about the nutritional aspects.
Nutritional Benefits of Beet Greens
Turns out that beet greens have some amazing nutritional benefits. According to The World’s Healthiest Foods, they are a great source of iron and provide a pretty decent ratio of magnesium and calcium compared to other greens. In addition they are full of folate. They also contain eye-health supporting nutrients like the carotenoids lutein and beta-carotene. In addition, they are chock full of Vitamin K, which helps with blood clotting. And they even contain protein.
That’s all the good stuff. Is there anything bad? Yes and no. Beet leaves are naturally high in salt. One cup of 1″ pieces has about 347 mg of sodium, which is about 14% of the DV according to this fact page by Self Nutrition Data. Also, the World’s Healthiest Foods points out that beet greens contain about 10 times as many oxalates as the roots. For most people oxalates aren’t a problem, but if you’re on a low-oxalate diet or have a history of kidney stones, then you might want to steer clear of beet greens. However, in this Healthline.net article, “What Is a Low-Oxalate Diet?,” it is suggested that eating calcium-rich foods along with foods high in oxalates (e.g., beet greens, purple grapes, quinoa, chocolate, almonds, bran flakes, tea) may be a better strategy to help lower your risk of kidney stones. So, maybe with the beet leaf chips, enjoy some cheese! But even if you don’t eat dairy with them, remember they do have calcium in them. So I can’t help but wonder if that would counteract the oxalate content to a certain extent? Maybe Mother Nature took care of the “oxalate problem” when it came to beet greens!
By the way, although oxalates aren’t a required human nutrient, I did find it fascinating to learn from the Healthline article that oxalates may serve as a gut prebiotic. In other words, they help may help balance your digestive system by supporting good gut bacteria.
How To Make Roasted Garlic Beet Leaf Chips
1. Wash the beet leaves.
Whether you’re harvesting your own or using leaves from store-bought beets, washing them is essential, of course. Otherwise, you might be chomping on some dirt — or worse — a few critters.
Not sure about the best way to wash the leaves? Then check out my post, “Which of These Ten Methods is the Best Way to Wash Your Produce?” You may be surprised to find out which method is actually the best, by the way. I know I was after I did the research.
2. Dry the beet leaves.
Place them in a colander or in a salad spinner if you have a large enough one. Or, pat the leaves with a clean dish towel to dry them, which goes quicker than you think. As I was in a hurry, I did a combo. I dried them in a colander for a little while and then I used a towel, since I didn’t have time to wait. Also, I wasn’t too concerned about whether they were bone dry or not, because as you’ll see in Step #5, I took care of that problem when I applied the oil.
3. Preheat the oven.
I read a few recipes online about how to make kale leaves and saw people suggesting temps ranging from 275° to 350°. So, I decided to use a figure right in the middle — 325. It worked well, but if you know your oven runs hot, maybe 275 or 300 would work better for you. Oh, and if you have a convection setting, definitely use that. It will evenly cook the leaves better.
4. Cut the beet leaves.
The stems aren’t too tasty, so stack several leaves together at once to save time when cutting them.
5. Coat the leaves with garlic oil.
I used a paper towel for this job, but you could use a napkin as well. As I had some garlic olive oil handy, I poured a little into a bowl and dipped a folded paper towel into it. I then wiped the napkin over each leaf — front and back — to ensure I wasn’t getting too much oil on each leaf. It also helped sop up any left-over water droplets from leaves that didn’t dry that well. This method worked really well and it went really quickly believe it or not. It wasn’t messy and I used only about 2 teaspoons of oil max for about six baking sheets full of beet leaves.
Note: You can also make your own garlic oil by following this Ina Garten recipe from the Food Network, which takes only about 5 minutes.
6. Place the leaves on a cookie sheet and season them.
On a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper — or if you have one, a silicone baking mat –arrange the beet leaves so they don’t overlap. If you do overlap them a little, you will have to move them mid-way through baking. Otherwise, they will not crisp evenly and parts of them may be a little soggy, which is something you don’t want, of course.
Lightly sprinkle on some sea salt (as I noted in the nutrition section above they already naturally contain sodium, so no need to overdo it) and freshly cracked pepper if you wish.
Note: Other spices that might taste good would be cayenne pepper or perhaps some Italian spices. Adding in a little grated cheese like parmesan would be tasty, too. If you try any variations, please let me know how they turn out by leaving a comment.
7. Bake for 20 – 35 minutes.
As you can see, I’ve got a range of time here. Depending on how big the leaves are and how well your oven works, the cooking time will probably vary. I found that after about 20 minutes, I felt I needed to check mine about every 5 minutes or so to gauge if they were done or not. I realized that once I could easily grab a leaf and lift it up off the baking sheet without it bending (it was stiff like craft paper), they were done. If you see any parts sagging, just put them back in for a few minutes. I cooked mine for probably about half an hour.
After I got done making a few batches, I had my daughter and her friend try them. Since she’s absolutely crazy about kale chips, I figured she might like beet leaf chips, too. They said they were pretty good. So, there you go, “teenager approved.” I thought they were yummy, too, and so did the hubby.
How about you? Do you think you’d like to try some beet leaf chips?
By the way, these are meant to be enjoyed fresh. After storing some in a gallon-size zip lock bag, they lost their crispiness. Hmmm. Maybe a paper bag would have worked better? Anyhow, give them a try. They’re a great way to use beet leaves and make a fun appetizer or snack that’s sure to satisfy savory cravings. Guaranteed.
Copyright © Karen Peltier and Well Gal, 2015. All rights reserved.
Photos © Karen Peltier and Well Gal, 2015. All rights reserved.