Sunday, May 31, 2015

BEETS

Beet. What a wonderful vegetable. 
Edible from top to bottom. Eat the greens and the roots!


For many years we simply grew the cylindrical, tasty beets you see in the photo above. 


Once we tried a few other varieties, we were sure glad we did. The colors, shapes and flavors are attractive, varied and delicious!


Some of the varieties we have grown and enjoyed are:

ALBINO
BOLDOR
BULL'S BLOOD
CHIOGGIA
CYLINDRA
DETROIT DARK RED
EARLY WONDER TALL TOP
GOLDEN
RED ACE
TOUCHSTONE GOLD





















Plan on getting your beets started any time from early May through mid-June. This will give your beets plenty of time to germinate and grow into good sized plants. The greens are best harvested while fairly young. The roots are tastiest when medium sized.



For years I followed the simple instructions on the package for seed starting. Begin by soaking your beet seeds in room temperature water for a few hours or over night. 



Prepare a fertile, raised bed with good drainage. 

Usually the next step for me would be to plant the seeds about three inches apart about 1/2 to 1 inch below the surface. However, one of our girls, Rachel, planted the beet seeds for me a few years back. Instead of poking her finger into the soil less than an inch deep, she poked holes about two inches deep and dropped a seed into each hole. Hmmm. Ordinarily, I would fill in the holes with soil after the seed was dropped inside. With the seeds deeper in holes than recommended, I decided to leave these two inch holes with a seed in each... uncovered by soil... to prevent too much pressure from two inches of soil. These holes were watered gently for only five or six days before the happy little beet plants came peeking out! 

Germination is usually about 60 to 70%. This patch was more like 90%! What the heck! So, the same routine was followed from then on... with continued success! Thank you, Rachel, for a new take on starting beets!



So, once the beet seeds have germinated

 cover the beet patch with a floating row cover for the life of the beets. This will keep out any unwanted pests and allow the soil to warm up much more than without the cover. The sunshine passes through the cover as well as rain. If there is not enough rain, water with the cover in place. Beets benefit from regular watering. The growth and quality of the beets improve remarkably with the additional heat. One year we had a row of beets uncovered beside a row covered. What a difference! The uncovered row never matured.



After about a month of growth, remove the cover to weed and, if necessary, thin the beets. Go ahead and eat the leaves of any plants removed from thinning! Also, the remaining beet greens may be large enough at this point to start harvesting a few from each plant. Baby beet greens are delicious added to salads. 



Older beet greens can still be eaten and are tasty when steamed or sauteed in olive oil.





Wait until the beet roots are at least one inch in diameter before harvesting to eat. Most varieties have tender, delicious roots until they are over 4 inches in diameter. When beet roots grow larger than 4 inches, the flavor and texture starts going downhill.




When harvesting beet roots, leave an inch or two of stem on the top of the root to prevent the color from bleeding out. 

If you have an abundance of beets in the fall, best to store them in a root cellar type environment... cold but not freezing. Place them in damp sand or sawdust in a container or bucket.




How to eat beets? 

My all time favorite is BAKED BEETS. Wash and place the beets in a covered roasting pan. Bake them with skins on at 400 degrees for about an hour. Simply slip the skins off after baking. Slice or dice the cooked beets and eat warm with butter and salt. Or slice the beets and soak them in apple cider vinegar. 

Well, maybe my favorite is BEET CHIPS
Thinly slice raw beets. 
Marinate in 1 cup water, 1 cup apple cider vinegar and 4 tablespoons of olive oil for about 20 minutes. 
Drip dry in a colander. 
Season with salt, pepper or other flavors. 
Dehydrate at 145 degrees for 1 hour.
Then dehydrate at 115 degrees until crispy. This will take as many as 24 hours. 
Beet chips!

But, wait. I really love beets peeled and SHREDDED into salads.

And, there are wonderful recipes for BEET SOUP, also known as BORSCHT. I like it served hot or cold. Beautiful color and flavor! 
Below is the photo of a simple, blended borscht recipe.

Want to give it a try? 
Here is a recipe based on the beet borscht on the TasteofHome.com site.

Place the following ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil:
2 cups shredded beets
1 large chopped onions
2 or 3 medium sized carrots shredded
2 cups of water
1/2 teaspoon of salt
Once boiling, reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes with a cover.

Add:
1 quart of chicken, beef or vegetable broth 
1 cup of shredded cabbage
1 tablespoon of butter
1 tablespoon of lemon
Simmer uncovered for 15 more minutes, uncovered.

Add a dollop of sour cream to each serving. 
Eat as is... or blend into a creamy soup as in the photo above. Simply delicious!





What am I saying? I love BEETS JUICED with apples and carrots! 
Nectar of the gods!

Have you ever PICKLED BEETS?

Whether pickled, dehydrated, juiced, boiled, steamed, baked, roasted or shredded... beets are a delicious, nutritious addition to any meal.











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