The Urban Gardener: Savor the unique flavor of beets

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Beets are an under-appreciated vegetable. Like Brussel sprouts, beets have been the victim of uninspired preparations and memories formed by our childhood palate. Admittedly, beets have a unique flavor, and unique flavors can be a challenge to work with. However, a little experimentation will yield some great flavor combinations. I think beets pair especially well with pungent cheeses like Gorgonzola or feta. Beets also go well with ginger!

With a little planning, and the right varieties, gardeners can keep themselves in a steady supply of beets for much of the year. In early spring, start with Early Wonder Tall Top, and you should be eating your own beets before Memorial Day. In late spring and early summer, plant a few rows of striped Chiogga and golden beets to add more color to your summer beet repertoire. In mid- to late summer, plant Lutz Winter Keeper for a Thanksgiving and Christmas harvest.

I like to plant beet seeds fairly close together, since I love to eat baby beet greens. When the beet leaves are about two inches tall, carefully pick out every other plant, to add to your salad bowl. As the beets grow larger, thin out the plants again, so that the remaining plants have enough room to make a bulb, about three inches apart.

Although most recipes call for steamed or roasted beets, they can be sautéed (cut them into matchsticks, or similar bite-sized pieces) or eaten raw.

Don’t forget the green beet tops! Beet greens are packed with iron and other nutrients and shouldn’t be regulated to the compost bin. Since I grow so many beets, I have more beet greens than I can keep up with, so I don’t bother using much garden space for cooking greens.

Spring Salad with Beets

Clean and dry three large handfuls of assorted baby salad greens.

To make the dressing: Mince one shallot and place in a bowl with one tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, a pinch of sugar and a dash of salt and pepper. Whisk in two tablespoons of olive oil.

Toss the salad greens in the dressing.

Fit your food processor with the grating blade (or do this the old- fashioned way with a box grater) and shred three medium-sized raw beets. Sprinkle the grated beets over the greens. Top with three tablespoons of sunflower seeds and three ounces of blue cheese.

— By Lara Alexander, My Edmonds News gardening columnist. For more gardening tips and recipes, visit her foodandsoil blog.

1 COMMENT

  1. Great article, and well timed. I just thinned out my beets yesterday – made an excellent dinner of baby beets and braised beet greens. Much maligned veggie, perhaps, but I didn’t hear any complaints! Thanks again, Lara.

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