When I tell friends and family that I am growing beets in my veggie plot, some of them seem genuinely startled. “You like beets?” they’ll ask skeptically as they wrinkle their noses. In my opinion, the humble beet is one of the most underappreciated vegetables in the garden. I view it as a jewel-colored diamond in the rough. Its leaves make a delicious salad when eaten raw, and they can also be cooked like spinach. Likewise, the plump little orb that pushes its rounded shoulders up and out of the soil when it’s ready to be picked can also be eaten raw or cooked.
A few days ago I found more ripe beets in my garden than I could reasonably consume in a day or two. So I whipped out my Crock Pot and simmered more than a dozen of them in a blend of Geweurtztraminer, honey and the kind of aromatic spices you’d normally use to season apple pie.
After they cooked for about three hours, I portioned the beets into glass jars with the cooking liquid and stored them in the fridge, where they should keep for a couple of weeks.
The next day I made a simple salad using fresh beet tops as a leafy green base, and adorned it with diced red onion, sliced Fuji apple, tiny balls of tangy herbed chevre from Green Goat Dairy, and a couple of sliced, spiced beets. For dressing I drizzled a little of the spiced beet liquid over the salad, followed by a splash of olive oil.
The following recipe for spiced beets elevates the underappreciated garden veggie to something so special that even the skeptic’s scrunched up face will soften into an appreciative smile.
Adapted from a recipe for “Fresh Pears in Wine” in Crockery Cookery by Mable Hoffman (1975)
15-20 beets, trimmed and peeled
1 cup white wine
3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup water
1 tsp minced crystallized ginger
2 TBL lemon juice
1 stick cinnamon
10 cloves, whole
10 allspice, whole
Combine all ingredients in a small slow-cooking pot. Cover and cook on low heat for 3 hours or until beets are tender when pierced. Store beets in their liquid in the refrigerator.