This post is for my mother.
All my life I hated beets. My mother loved them and tried her darndest to get me to eat them. Because I wanted to please her and because I also had a pretty adventurous palate even for a kid, I tried. Tried them cold, hot, pickled, canned, jarred, hot with butter, you name it. To me, they simply tasted like dirt. Not that I ate a lot of dirt as a kid, but we’ve all had enough dirt in our mouths at one point or another to know what it tastes like. The equation was simple; beets = dirt = no thanks. After a while, I told my mother I had done my best. Beets were simply not for me.
Then I became a gardener. The first year we grew beets, we managed to get a few that were just the right “baby beet” size. By then I’d become a devotee of the Food Network and was trying my hand at different things. One afternoon, nothing would satisfy me but a salad with home grown lettuce, crisp fresh cukes, tomatoes right off the vine and baby beets, lightly steamed:
Even a couple of years later, I can remember how fresh, light and crisp, earthy and substantial that salad was. Suddenly, the “dirt” taste of the beets had changed. It became “earthy” and therefore, sexy and sensual. That year, we also grew golden beets and from then on I was hooked. Golden beets are much milder than the red kind. They have the beet texture, but in taste they almost lean more towards a yam. They are especially wonderful grilled or roasted. I also love beet greens mixed in with chard or kale or all three for a wonderful “mess” of mixed greens. The lowly beet has become a versatile member of our garden regulars.
The last couple of years, we haven’t done so well with the beets. We didn’t plant many this year, but the few we have are doing well. Today, G pulled just a few and I decided to wing it:
One of the things I love best about growing your on veggies is all the fun and funky shapes you get out of the ground or off the vine. Symmetry is for assembly line farming; a garden gives you the real shape of things. After trimming off the greens, I steamed the beets till just tender then dunked them into an ice water bath to cool. After that, the skins simply slid off with a little rubbing. I sliced them along with some red onion, and drizzled them with the magic substances below:
The rich orange infusion of the oil plays perfectly off the earthy taste of the beets and gives a sweetness to the tart red onion. Even though the beets are dark, a regular balsamic would make the whole thing “muddy” so the golden version is perfect. After a grind of fresh pepper and coarse salt, I tossed in just a few cubes of feta cheese, and this is a beet dish that I could happily eat every day. My mom would be so happy!
Do you have a veggie that you think you don’t like? Try planting it and then try it. I guarantee that even if you don’t fall in love with it, it will taste much better when it’s the fruit of your own labor!