i put beets on my fall salad. what about you?

I KNOW, I’LL NEVER WIN A POPULARITY CONTEST by campaigning for beets, one of those foods that really divides a crowd. But when the group of food bloggers I’ve been collaborating with on Summer (and lately Fall) Fest proclaimed this week to be themed “Fall Salads,” asking what I’d put on mine, I knew what my other-than-greens ingredient would be. How do I love thee, Beta vulgaris subspecies vulgaris?

I love thee simply roasted, then skinned, sliced and tossed with Balsamic and oil—beets vinaigrette, so to speak, and a salad unto itself. (For a variation on the dressing, use fresh orange juice in place of some of the vinegar.)

I love thee (vinaigrette and all) on top of tender salad greens, whose slightly sweet taste offsets your all-undergroundly, Fruit-of-the-Earth flavor.

I love thee even better when a dollop of warmed chevre and a handful of pepitas (pumpkin seeds) are the third and fourth layer in the above-described deal (top photo).

And sweetheart, you aren’t bad with crumbles of blue cheese and either walnuts or pepitas, either.

Roasting and Growing Beets

HERE AT MARGARET ROACH INC. World Headquarters, we roast a bunch of beets most weeks of the year. Simply trim the (edible) tops a half-inch or so from the beet (if you cut flush, the beet will bleed while cooking), wash the root, and place it in a Pyrex baking pan or on a baking sheet in 375 oven until tender, 30 to 90 minutes depending on size of the beet. A sharp paring knife inserted easily indicates doneness.

Everyone worries about all that pink juice–on their hands, on their pans. That’s why I use glass; I find that the glass pan is easier to clean than enamel or metal. Some much more expert cooks recommend wrapping each beet in foil first, or putting a little water in the pan then covering it with foil or a lid to bake the beets (which speeds cooking somewhat, and may reduce burned-on beet juice).

The tops, not incidentally, are highly nutritious and almost identical botanically to Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris subspecies cicla), which is called silverbeet in England and elsewhere. I grow one variety, ‘Bull’s Blood,’ above, mostly for its tops, which are a rich reddish color: beautiful and delicious.

Beets are wildly easy to grow, by direct-sowing seed in a well-cultivated bed (sun to part shade) starting as soon as the ground can be worked in spring, and re-sowing another short row or block every two weeks through midsummer.

The only trick: Each “seed” is actually a withered seedpod, containing the potential for two to four plants, so you must thin—best done by clipping the extras with a scissor—or there will be no room for any of the desired underground parts to develop.

Sound like a harsh sacrifice? Not really. If you time things just right, the baby greens you just thinned out make a delicious—you guessed it—fall (or spring, or summer) salad of their own.

Fall Salad Links from My Expert Friends

What’s a Fall Fest?

FALL FEST IS A cross-blog recipe (and tip) swap–and you’re invited to participate. Simply post your link or recipe or idea in the comments below my post, and also on the blogs of the other participants listed in the recipe links box just above.

Want more information on how it all works? Get the details (and the schedule for upcoming weeks, including our shift into Fall Fest last week after many weeks of Summer Fest, with a new logo but the same recipe-sharing routine). We’re continuing right into the Thanksgiving holiday.

  1. graes says:

    Beets and Avocados are two of my favourites in a salad.. and a bountiful sprinkling of roasted almonds , if I am feeling industrious :-)

  2. Mouse4 says:

    I grew golden beets this year but have yet to harvest them. I wonder if they’ll taste and different than red beets? I like them best in my mother’s Polish beet soup with a sliced hard boiled egg garnish.

  3. TC says:

    Beets me why I don’t have a beet recipe. I think others here have beeten me to the punch. It’s late, I’m beet. But I do love garden fresh beets (minus the corny puns here).

  4. Margi says:

    Roasted beets….cut up, drizzled with olive oil, perhaps seasoned lightly…roasted until
    almost carmelized. Delicious with other roasted vegetables such as cauliflower, carrots, green onions, potatoes, zucchini, peppers. Also delicious in a salad. We
    like to add the beets when they are still warm but it is just as yummy if they are not.

    Not roasted or cooked, but cut into those long thin strings to create a curly bunch on top of the salad, along with carrots cut the same way…beautiful to look at and a tasty addition
    to your salad. I have a tool that does this long thin string but can’t recall what it is
    called. Good for parmesan and other hard cheese, too.

  5. TomW says:

    Wow, lots of hungry people out there …

    Quick and easy fare:
    Preheat oven to 400 degrees
    Oil a baking sheet (or two) with your favorite oil. We have found that olive oil works fine and does not smoke too much at that high temp.
    Slice home grown potatoes into 1/4 inch slices (thickness varies on your preference – try a variety of thicknesses)
    Do the same with beets
    While you are at it, throw in some carrots and other root veggies or squash.
    Drizzle more oil on top with salt, pepper, and other favorite flavorings.
    Bake for 20 minutes or so.
    Take them out and let cool a bit (if you can wait that long).
    If you are fortunate, you have some pesto and feta nearby to garnish the veggies.
    Good with most anything and very filling!

  6. NancyH says:

    There is a wonderful recipe for beets with garlic and pasta in a cookbook by Michele Sciccolone called A Fresh Taste of Italy–not a recent book but one with many intriguing, delicious recipes. My copy has a photo of this recipe on the book jacket, which drew me to it. I have not made it many times, because my crowd is on the other side of the “beet divide” from me, but it was delicious!

  7. M says:

    I like beets roasted too-especially the golden ones. My husband who says beets taste like dirt can actually tolerate the gold ones. I like them with lots of oranges, orange juice vinegrette and feta.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, M. I haven’t tried orange juice and feta, but will on my next batch — thank you. I prefer the earthier taste of the red ones to the golden, but you’re right: sometimes even non-beet lovers will dare eat the yellow ones. See you soon.

  8. I love them slow-roasted in their skins, but you can also peel, grate and eat them *raw*–dressed with vinaigrette (toss separately, unless you want your whole salad pink) atop mixed fall greens, maybe some raw grated celery root too, and apples…ricotta salata or something blue and crumbly tastes great on this.

    I think to some people beets do actually taste “like dirt”….I prefer “earthy”.

    1. Margaret says:

      Hello, Claiborne — another beet lover! Apparently the nutrients when eaten raw are so much greater, so that’s a good idea nutritionally, too. And earthy it is! :)

  9. Jane in CT says:

    Claiborne! That’s what I was going to contribute: a whole pile of shredded raw beets [peeled first, holding them while wearing rubber or latex gloves]. I shred an equal amount of carrots in with them, too, tossing very lightly to avoid the pinkness, and then dress with balsamic vinaigrette. Walnuts on top.

    By the way, the shredder I use is a 30-40-50s era flat grater with curved ends that hooks on the edge of a bowl [yay for tag sales!]. I find it gives me the most control and ease and I can get that last bit before the tops and my fingers get raked.

    This week I was introduced to a raw butternut squash salad made with peeled, cubed squash that is then chopped in a food processor to a coarse texture. Now I’m thinking of adding or substituting shredded raw butternut to the above equation.

    My mouth is watering…

  10. Madeline says:

    I love beets although I know they are not a crowd pleaser generally speaking. I grew up having drinking cold beet borscht with slices of beets in it, topped by sour cream (very Russian.) I roast them, peel them and use them in salads – luscious with goat cheese. I also roast other vegetables and toss the cubed roasted beets with them (usually brussel sprouts and sweet potatoes.) Yum.

  11. toni says:

    Ever have beets on pizza? I had the most amazing wood-fired grill pizza paired with a yummy Italian Sangiovese-Cab. On the pizza: roasted beets ( red and yellow), thinly sliced red onion, pears, pignoli, and gorgonzola. OMG…I’m going back for more.

  12. louise says:

    We planted beets, in a raised bed, that somehow never grew. I wonder if a ground hog would eat them? The last two years, we grew plenty of beets and loved them. Strange indeed. I love them roasted as well, but will have to buy them at a greenmarket. :(

    A confession from many years ago. I was living in Sweden and a friend gave me a home grown beet . I did not know what it was or how to cook it. The answer was, bake, boil, or mash it, with a bit of salt and pepper. Wow. I did boil it, I think, and loved it.

    I make a borsht using a pressure cooker, with microwaved wonderful savory cabbage. What a modern take on great old world food!

  13. Brenda says:

    I love beets – roasted or steamed, tossed with a little vinegar and butter – YUM! Salad-wise, my favorites involve a combo of roasted beets and fennel, perhaps a few carrots and an onion tossed with a citrus (orange, lemon or lime) vinaigrette and finished with feta and pine nuts. Gorgeous and delicious! If you want to get really fancy, you can add a few slices of orange and a dash of Grand Marnier. Trust me … very good!

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Brenda. Vinegar and butter — will try that next batch. All of your suggestions sound good, in fact — who knew the beet was so versatile, right? :)

      Welcome, Louise. The mysteries of gardening — bumper crop one year, bust the next. Hilarious about the 21st century tactics for borscht.

      See you both soon again, I hope.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Katie. Here, too — between the sweet potatoes and the winter squash, the theme is orange at my house. Nice to see you, and thanks for the recipe link.

  14. Suellen says:

    I don’t know why beets get such a bad rap – I think they are DELICIOUS! Cold, hot, roasted, pickled, I’ll take them any way. A standard part of meatloaf dinner – meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and beets. A true comfort food in my world!

  15. dd says:

    I purposefully planted my beets late for fall salads (Aug.) because I hate roasting in summer. My beets as of yesterday were still only seedlings! They have just not grown. This has never happened to me before. I am beetless and sad.

  16. Zom G. says:

    My beet crop didn’t do so well last year, perhaps I didn’t thin enough? I’m thinking about trying Chiogga next year, but quick question about the seedpods… is it possible to break them up before planting or would that require tweezers and a microscope?
    Favorite ways to use beets: Avocado, Beet, and Arugula Salad, Thomas Keller’s Red Beet Ice Cream, and Roasted Beet Salad with Barley, feta and Red Onion.

    Best summer salad that I’m making now in autumn: http://zomsadventures.blogspot.com/2010/11/souvenir-foto-school-food-and-foto.html#!/2010/11/souvenir-foto-school-food-and-foto.html
    It works even when fresh sorrel turns into pre-packaged arugula and off-the-vine cherry tomatoes became off-the-airplane chilean tomatoes.

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