As one of our most whimsical American authors noted, there is undoubtedly a mystery and stark individuality to the beet. It’s outer appearance is pure dichotomy, with a hirsute outdoorsman-like bottom half and ladylike plumage of leaves on top. Slicing into a beet couldn’t be more surprising or captivating. Dark blood hued, the juice stains one’s hands like Lady Macbeth. It is surely the most saturated, color-penetrating vegetable on Earth.

On the practical side, beets are a proven source of phytonutrients and antioxidants, which can lower cholesterol, and protect against coronary disease and stroke. They are also known to be anti-inflammatory and great for detoxification. In other words, pull out that juicer and start whirring beets after workouts and/or long, alcohol-drenched evenings. Include the greens in your juicing, as they contain the powerful carotenoid lutein, which will help remove the beer goggles and restore your vision.

Here in California, we adore all of our beautiful beets, but the standard red undoubtedly takes center stage. There is scarcely a beach restaurant menu that doesn’t have a beet salad on their menu, most often accompanied by goat cheese and some type of nut. But San Diego restaurants are also flexing their culinary muscles and taking beets in new, unexpected directions. At Kindred, a popular vegan spot in South Park, one of their most popular entrees is a vibrant Beet Risotto, with fried potato scallops, sweet corn sauce and scallion sour cream. Even in the meathappy burger land of Eureka! in UTC, the Veggie Beet Burger garners loyal fans. Made with a housemade red beet and kidney bean patty, pickles, tomato, red onion, arugula and lemon vinaigrette, you won’t even miss the meat. Cucina Enoteca performs a mouthwatering marriage of lower beet and upper greens with their seasonal agnolotti, currently served with feta and house-cured pancetta.

With the rise of local producers and availability on tap, Kombucha is no longer a foreign, head-turning beverage. And with a myriad of flavors offered, it’s no surprise the bold beet makes an appearance. Bootstrap Kombucha owner James Farnworth states without hesitation that his beet flavors are his current bestsellers. He notes, “We call them Bog and a Bag, for beet orange ginger, and beet apple ginger. Gorgeously colored, the blends give you an earthy “beetiness” with the complementing ginger-ific spice and sweetness from the fruit.

If you’re looking to take your beet love affair out to drinks, stop by new North county hotspot, Campfire in Carlsbad, for their show-stopping Roasted Beets cocktail. Found on their From the Fire portion of the menu, the lip-smacking libation includes gin, ginger, honey, lemon and thyme.

If you’re like me and looking to reduce your reliance on chemicals and manufactured goods, consider these two incredible applications of beets: instead of buying artificial color dyes for your frostings and red velvet cake, use beet juice to create beautiful pinks and reds (perfect for Valentine’s or birthday cupcakes and cookies!) Also consider the intensely colored beet for homemade blushes, lip stains and glosses for truly natural glows.

With an overwhelming array of choices and the holiday season upon us, beets add delicious and colorful vitality to your table and menu.

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