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BONNIE'S GARDEN--Growing Beets

 One of the things I love about the fall—fresh beets.  They are sweet and delicious—nature’s candy. My grandmother put up jars and jar of pickled beets and, at Easter, would always nestle some hard-boiled eggs in a couple of half-empty jars to make pickled eggs.

Beets evolved from the wild sea beet which is native to coastlines from India to Great Britain.  It was the Ancient Romans who began to cultivate it in earnest.  Beets were even left as offerings at Apollo’s temple at Delphi, where it was said they were worth their weight in silver.  In the beginning, only the beets top were eaten.  Eating the root came later—after it had been cultivated to be more turnip-like rather than long and thin like a carrot.

Beets are an excellent source of folates and manganese as well as a good source of vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.  They are a unique source of phytonutrients called betalains which preliminary research suggests may help to lower blood pressure and detox the liver.  Beet greens also are a good source of lutein. 

To grow your own beets, choose a sunny spot and amend your soil with compost or composted manure.  Have your pH check to be sure it is above 6.2.  Add lime, if necessary.  Beet seeds are hard and tough so soak them overnight in lukewarm water, then planting 1/2 inch deep and three inches part.  Water daily, in the beginning.  Seeds will sprout in three to five days.

For beet greens, you can harvest a leaf or two from each plant—once they have several leaves each—or you can plant a variety called Seven Tops which is grown primarily for the greens.  Beets are ready to be pulled when two to three inches in diameter.  Beets will keep for weeks in a cool basement or in the crisper drawer of your fridge.

Here is my favorite beet recipe:

Oven-Roasted Beets
Preheat oven to 425.  Rinse any dirt or debris from beets, remove tops and save for another use.  Drizzle beets with a little olive oil, wrap together in foil (I often just use a casserole dish with lid) and place in the oven.  Small beets will take around 25 minutes, larger ones may take up to an hour. Beets are ready when fork tender.

Cool until they can be handled easily and slip the skins off.  Cut into chunks or slices, drizzle with a little olive oil and fresh orange juice. Add sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.  Top with feta or goat’s cheese, if desired.
Posted: 9/8/2014 by Bonnie Pega | with 0 comment(s)
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