01 October 2009


i tried to grow beets last year. they germinated, grew about 2 inches tall, and that was it. they just sat there, all summer. didn't die, but didn't grow either. i've determined it was a combination of bad soil, and too much shade.

this year, i gave it another shot. i planted two different varieties in my fall garden, in our new place, between rows of leaf lettuce. boy, did they take off! i credit plenty of sun, and that miraculous river bottom soil in our new garden beds. we pulled out our first one a couple of weeks ago.

cosmo got to do the honors. would ya take a look at the size of that thing! i baked that one, sliced it, and just ate the whole thing with a little butter and salt. there is nothing like a beet pulled fresh outta the ground. i used to not care too much for beets, 'til i had one that had just been pulled from a friend's garden, in oregon. it is a completely different experience, and i believe the reason is that the sugars begin to break down, and convert to starches, as soon as the beet is removed from the ground. so, the fresher, the sweeter. baking and roasting do a good job of concentrating the remaining sugars, and making most vegetables taste better, even if they are not fresh from the garden.

for the next batch we harvested, we made this unbelievably delicious soup from (possibly) my favorite cook book:

Beet Soup with Three Legumes
from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, by Deborah Madison

1/2 cup red kidney beans, soaked 4 hours, or overnight (i have also used white
beans, they cook more quickly, and don't need to soak as long)
4 medium beets, peeled and diced
1/2 cup brown or green lentils
1 cup cooked chickpeas (canned are fine, drained)
2 cups chopped beet greens, or chard
salt and freshly milled pepper
1 bunch scallions, including half of the greens, chopped
two cups coarsely chopped spinach (or more beet greens, if ya got 'em)
1 small bunch parsley, finely chopped

the garnish (in my opinion, this can be doubled)

3 tablespoons butter, preferably clarified (ghee)
1 onion, cut into 1/2 inch squares (or chopped in a food processor, if you are in a hurry)
1/4 teaspoon tumeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 cup chopped mint
1/2 cup plain yogurt, or sour cream

Drain the beans, cover them with 5 cups water, and boil hard for 10 minutes. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, until soft, about 1 1/4 hours. set aside.

Put the beets, lentils and 7 cups water in a soup pot. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 25 minutes. Add the kidney (or white) beans with 2 cups of their liquid, the chickpeas, beet greens and 2 teaspoons salt; simmer until the greens are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the scallions, spinach and parsley; cook until the spinach is wilted and bright green. Taste for salt and turn off heat.

For the garnish, melt the butter in a small skillet over low heat. Add the onion, tumeric, cayenne, and mint; cook until the onion is soft, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Ladle the soup into bowls. Add a spoonful of garnish and yogurt to each serving.
Madison notes:...Unlike most soups, the aromatics are added at the end, breaking the clean surface with a net of golden speckles.

to achieve the effect described above, make sure you ladle plenty of broth into each bowl.

i hope at least one of you will try this soup, and let me know what you think. i love it because it is so thoroughly packed with nutritious foods, and yet it tastes like some rare, gourmet delicacy, and the colors are fantastic. the mint really takes you by surprise, and works with all the other flavors. don't think you can skip the mint. the recipe makes a lot, but luckily, tastes better the next day. however, if you leave it on the stove too long, to re-heat it, you may lose some of the dazzling color-- but, none of the flavor.

ahhh, beets.


Yerba said...

Yum. Nusrat made an awesome beet soup recently. Maybe I can slyly convince her to try your new recipe...(What? I should return the favor and make her some? :-p)

bethany said...

i grate fresh beets and carrots and serve them raw before dinner with our homemade vinagrette.. and my kids love it too

Heather said...

Mmmm, those are lovely. I was late to beets too, but am making up for lost time.

Your last post on your other blog just popped up in my reader, and I realized that I have no idea what the origin of the name of this blog is...?

Hope you are enjoying fall and the new home.



mep said...

I am beet red with envy. I LOVE beets.

Anonymous said...

I have always loved beets, and you're right: fresh out of the ground with nothing but butter and salt is the best for those babies!

Beets is a good fall crop...maybe that's why last year's didn't do well because they were grown as a summer crop? The coolness of fall really makes them produce sugar like mad and therefore make them totally tasty! :)

Anonymous said...

Oh and beet greens are sooo good too! We've been thinning ours and using the greens in our salad.