May 21, 2012

Garden Haul: Beets

Beets have not historically been a family favorite around here, but that's starting to change and this year I planted beets in the garden for the first time.

First harvest of beets

My first plantings were chewed to the ground by some hungry pests (earwigs?) and I almost gave up, but then I saw a six-pack of beet seedlings at the nursery and realized I might have better luck if I started my seeds in the greenhouse where they were more protected from bugs. I had thought since they were root vegetables, they needed to be seeded directly into the dirt, but that's not the case with beets. My transplants did very well, so from now on that's how I'll grow them.

Tiny beet seedlings back in March

I've never bought beets at the store--mostly because Mr. English said he wouldn't touch them with a ten foot pole--but for a long time we got a weekly CSA box from Terra Firma Farm that sometimes included beets, so we were forced to start experimenting with them. (That's one of the great things about a CSA box--it pushes you to try new things!) I will admit that, especially in the early years of our CSA subscription, the beets often languished in the fridge for weeks on end until I finally threw them in the compost pile.

Beets thriving in a wine barrel

Then one day I made borscht and it turned out that, surprise, the entire family liked it! I suspect it had less to do with the beets and more to do with the pretty pink color and the massive dollop of sour cream on top. For a couple of years that was the only beet dish I knew how to make. The turning point in our family's relationship with beets was the day I found a recipe for beet cake, with generous amounts of cream cheese frosting (think carrot cake, but with beets).

Kid-approved beet cake with cream cheese frosting

Yesterday I took a fantastic ravioli making class and found a new use for beets: beet pasta. The pasta consisted solely of roasted beets, flour and a touch of olive oil. The color was stunning and the flavor was surprisingly mild. I will definitely be making this at home soon! Incidentally, the class was part of a series of spring food craft classes offered by Slow Food Yolo; there are two more in the series, so check out their website if you're interested.

Beet pasta ravioli with smoked salmon

These days I look for more ways to include beets in our diet, because I know they are both tasty and super healthy, especially the tops, called "beet greens". Turns out beets are also great for the digestive tract (you'll have to ask me later how I know that). And the great thing is, they are very easy to grow and are relatively quick from seed to table.

Do you grow beets in the garden? Have any beet-phobes in the household?

2 comments:

  1. Mr. English's SisterMay 21, 2012 at 1:54 PM

    We are huge beet eaters here but only because about 1/2 of the Peers team don't have teeth. I like how Jamie Oliver works with beats. He will take a roasting pan and throw in potatoes, carrots, beets, and whatever is available. Usually beets are tossed with balsamic vinegar but I use good olive oil and kosher salt. Cook at 350. He also cooks in an outdoor oven on his palatial rustic farm in England which must add to the delight of eating them. The beets are eaten before the potatoes in our family. Mr. English use to grow beets in his pre-teen years on Catalina.

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    1. Yep, roast 'em! I did that over the weekend and am writing about that for later in the week. So he used to grow them on Catalina, huh? I think he must have put that memory out of his head, because I've never heard it! :)

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