Sunday, September 9, 2012

Beets Just Can’t be Beat – September 9, 2012

My motto about gardening is that the real purpose is always to grow tomatoes.  This still holds true, but there are a few other things that are really worth a gardening investment because they are better if you grow your own.  One of these is beets.  

I know many people think they do not like beets because they tried and disliked pickled beets or could never get past the red dye they make.  But cooking beets makes them sweet like carrots and you can plant varieties that are not red (we grew Chioggia this year which has a bulls-eye appearance when cut in half and you can also get yellow, pink and white) to avoid the dye.  I especially like beets tossed into stir fry but use the non-red ones then to avoid a dinner that looks like a murder scene.   

Our garden tends to be too rich in nitrogen which is not good for beet growth, but it makes great beet greens.  And this is why I think growing your own beets it worth the effort.  We pick the greens from our beets all summer to add to salads like lettuces or to make wilted salads with bacon like dandelion greens.  

Sautéd Baby Beet Greens

1 sliced garlic clove
1 tsp. olive oil
8 cups fresh beet greens
salt and pepper

Sauté garlic in large skillet on high for 30 seconds.  Add beet greens and sauté 2-3 minutes until wilted.  Season with salt and pepper.

With red beets, I love nothing better than to just bake them and eat with a little salt and/or goat cheese.  You can also add a simple vinaigrette and eat while warm or cold.

Baked Beets

Fresh beet roots

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Wrap eat beet root in foil to cover and bake in oven until a fork can pierce easily (about an hour).  Remove beet roots from wrap and remove the peel (this will dye your fingers briefly in case you want to use gloves - I should also warn those who have never eaten lots of beets that you’ll see the dye later in the bathroom, so don’t worry).  Chop or slice, sprinkle with salt and enjoy!
Once you’ve enjoyed the sweet taste of fresh beets, try adding goat cheese while they are still warm and/or your favorite vinaigrette, a bit of orange or lemon juice and/or fresh sweet onions.  

Finally, you can always go the traditionally route of pickling beets.  We did put up one jar this year but instead of the traditional pickled beet recipe, we used a sour pickling recipe from Southern Living and pickled everything from okra, to beets, to carrots and even whole baby squash.  It’s a simple way to put up a little of several things from your garden and you can keep extra brine in your fridge to use as you harvest and pickle over a week or so.

Pickled Veggies (great for a Bloody Mary Bar)

4 ½ lbs. veggies, washed
8 c. apple cider vinegar
1 c. water
½ c. salt
1 clove garlic per pint jar
1 small red hot pepper per pint jar
1 tsp. dill seeds per pint jar
1 tsp. mustard seeds per pint jar

Bring vinegar,water and salt to boil.  Meanwhile, pack vegetables into jars (some facing up and some down) and add garlic, pepper and seeds to each jar.  Pour brine to fill each jar to ½ inch from top and seal.  Boil okra 10 minutes in jars and other vegetables 15 minutes.

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