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. carter @ the kitchenette says:

    I just recently discovered how tasty beets can be when they don’t come in an aluminum can. Granted, I didn’t grow mine, but the ones I got from the farmer’s market were pretty tasty in the farro and goat cheese salad I made.

  2. Richard Peck says:

    Roasted Beets go great with anything in an autumn dinner. Peel and quarter, or smaller if they’re big, toss with olive oil and garlic cloves (whole cloves unpeeled), salt & pepper and maybe a sprinkle of an herb of your choice… Roast at 375 until the beets are tender… a half hour ????… the garlics will be soft and tender too – mush them onto bread with olive oil. The beets will be something out of this world. Nice side to anything grilled out in the autumn air.

  3. Linda says:

    I adore these – in the UK we call them “beetroot” (one word). Roasted, cooled, oil and balsamic on top of peppery greens – you can feel the vitamins and minerals entering your body. I grew them for the first time this year, and could not believe how easy they were.

  4. Ilona says:

    I’ve come to appreciate beets later in life- as a child I really disliked them. But there is something about that earthy nuance they have. Rossela’s recipe sounds perfect to me.

  5. Tor says:

    I used to *hate* beets (associating them with supermarket vacuum packed vegetable grossness) until my beet-obsessed girlfriend introduced me to the real things a few years ago. I initially screwed my nose up when she suggested a beet-based salad, but over the years she’s sold them to me (mainly through her perfect cooking of the purple spheres and adding goat’s cheese and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and virgin olive oil over them… yum!). They’re now one of my top salad vegetables. Now that’s love for you :)

  6. Jane says:

    Have always loved beets. My spouse[the cook] sautes them with garlic and olive oil and then I just microwave them as a side dish. He also sometimes combines them with sauteed squash. I’m now going to try them on a salad-it sounds delicious.

    1. Margaret says:

      I am not alone! :)

      Welcome to beet-lovers Richard, Linda and Tor — and hello to others among you who also confess you love beets, too.

      Tor, I laughed out loud about a “beet-obsessed girlfriend.” Hilarious.

      Richard, I will try with garlic next batch. Thank you.

      Linda, aren’t they easy? Such magic, when suddenly, besides all those greens, you get the big fat root, too!

      See you all soon again, I hope.

  7. Julie Church says:

    Here is one of my favorite fall salads.

    Apple-Pear Salad


    1 (16 oz.) package Romaine lettuce, washed and broken into bite-size pieces
    1 (6 oz.) block Swiss cheese, grated
    1 C cashews
    1/2 C sweetened dried cranberries
    1 large apple, chopped and rinsed in lemon water to keep from turning brown
    1 large pear, chopped and rinsed in lemon water to keep from turning brown
    Poppy Seed Salad Dressing (recipe below)


    Toss together all ingredients in a large bowl. Yield: 6-8 servings.

    Poppy Seed Salad Dressing


    1/2 C sugar
    2/3 C oil
    1/4 C vinegar
    1 t mustard
    1 t salt
    1-2 t poppy seeds


    Place in jar and shake to combine.

  8. Susan Tomlinson says:

    They are tasty in a salad, I’ll grant you. However, they really ought to come with a warning for the first-timer as to what to expect the next day (regarding certain, er, changes in color of, um, stuff), so that said first-timer doesn’t rush herself off to the emergency room, convinced that she’s dying. Not that I would know anything about that. ;-)

  9. Mary W says:

    I’ve loved beets my whole life. That includes the canned kind, which were the only ones we had growing up. My husband isn’t wild about them, so I don’t make them much at home. These great ideas might change that!

  10. julia conaghan says:

    Ah, beets….I don’t grow them, but I love them. Sadly the only one in my family who does. But these recipes have inspired me to attempt another food intervention. Thank you.

  11. Dee says:

    As a small child, I was traumatized by beets. Sounds strange, but it’s true. I really loved candied apples; my Granny would buy them for me. Remember them? Deep red slices with a hole in the middle, packed in a glass jar? Well, my dad took the family to K&W Cafeteria, and there was a whole tray of my favorites, so I thought. My brother gave me a peculiar look when I asked the lady to load me up… You guessed it, they were beets — bluck! gross! nasty! (at least to a six year old!) and I haven’t had any sort of contact with a beet since. (The experience ruined candied apples for me too.)

    But your photo of beet greens is beautiful, and I love Swiss Chard, so perhaps I’ll plant some. I may even roast one, but no promises that I’ll try more than one bite…

  12. Tyler Davis says:

    Great info on beets! A few years ago, I grew the Bull’s Blood beet (although mine were much redder than your picture – the colder it gets, the redder the foliage?) in a mixed winter container on my front porch. They were planted with ornamental kale (the fancy cut leaved variety) a dwarf Alberta spruce (1 gal size) and some English Ivy to spill over the sides. The effect was marvelous and it looked good from mid November all the way until the first week of March, when I changed the containers out. The striking red foliage of the Bull’s Blood beet really made the combination “pop!”

  13. Karen P. says:

    I love beets! I canned a small batch of pickled beets over Labor Day weekend that I’m trying to resist ~ saving them for salads in the dead of winter! But I’m with you, Margaret, roasted beets are simply the best!

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Rachel. If they don’t seem to work, try the Pyrex pan and put a little water in and cover it, or wrap them individually in foil. I find them basically indestructible and just toss them in the oven in the Pyrex baking pan and forget them. The very small ones are harder to time, I think — they can cook too fast and be overdone. Thanks for the salad. Stilton!

  14. Halley's Mommy says:

    Yummm… love, love, love beets and am totally perplexed why, with so many fans here, the U.S. at large still hasn’t embraced them! Nevermind. WE know what they’re missing. And, yes… with goatcheese and some sort of nut is fabulous, but feta… oh feta, how I love thee with greens, little edamame gems, and long but thin slivers of earthy beets. I like them every which way but for some strange reason running them thinly through a mandolin or turning them into matchsticks… well, it just appeals to me.

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