Just Beet It
Tasty heirlooms have made the ever-popular beet even more so. Here’s how to grow them organically.
True confessions: I don’t like canned or pickled beets. There was a time that I did, living in the cloudy Pacific Northwest and growing lots of root vegetables because we could, including turnips and rutabagas. Garden beets grew especially well. I loved their tops or “greens” as they’re called and still do (beets are in the same family as chard). But every fall we’d pull beets, always leaving some in the ground under heavy mulch cover for greens in the spring, and the canning process would begin. The first month or so of eating canned beets multiple times a week, I did fine. But by the end of January? I didn’t want to see another dinner plate stained red.
There are a lot of reasons people don’t like beets. So who would have guessed the that beets are suddenly big? Foodies, fancy restaurants and home chefs are all finding tasty thing to do with beets. And a lot of the credit goes to heirlooms, specifically the Chioggia beet. The Chioggia, also referred to as the bulls-eye beet or the candy stripe are extra flavorful. An heirloom that originated in Italy, it’s different in more ways than color from the Detroit Golden heirloom beet (or simply “golden”… see number 3 pick on this post), the previous darling of the beet set. Regardless of which heirloom you grow — they’re great together or with other root vegetables in salads — beets are good for you. Sunset magazine listed them among their “Top-10 Feel Good Foods.”
Beets are easy to grow. And you can sow them directly into the garden from spring to mid summer for greens and roots. They’ll take temperatures down to 25 degrees but its a good idea to start mulching them as soon as frost season hits. Pests are few but aphids will some times set up shop on beet tops. Call in the ladybugs!
Even I’ve gotten on the fresh or roasted beet bandwagon. Here’s a recipe — and some other interesting beet info — for beet carpaccio. And here’s one for roasted beets and feta (roasting brings out beets’ earthy sweetness). Our favorite summer time beet recipe is no recipe at all. Mash some roasted beets — here’s one way to roast beets, here’s another — and add them to some garlic lightly sautéed in olive oil. Thin the resulting paste with vegetable or other broth until you have a nice consistency. Serve cold with a dollop of yogurt. Even if you never liked canned broscht, you’ll like this. Think it would be as good made with canned beets? Don’t even try.