Beets are a sweet purple vegetable, unusual in their color and taste. Throughout history they have been used as a dye as well as a food crop. They were most often grown for their leaves, and it was only fairly recently that growers realized the roots were edible as well.
Beets are one of the easiest plants for the home gardener to grow. In our climate and growing area, they perform best as a cool season crop, and will grow best in the spring or fall. They will tolerate most soil conditions and have a high yield. Beets are harvested for their leaves while the roots are still small, or the gardener can wait until the roots are large enough to eat.
Since both the leaves and roots of a beet are edible, they are prepared in a variety of ways. The roots contain a high amount of natural sugar and can be eaten in a variety of ways. They’re often pickled, eaten hot or cold, and are also boiled, steamed, or baked. The leaves often act as a steamed side to a meal. Beets are the main ingredient of borscht, a soup from Russia with variations all over Eastern Europe. This soup will warm you on a cold day, and the garnish of sour cream mixed in makes it especially delicious.
Recipes: Classic Russian Borscht
2 quarts beef stock*
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup finely-chopped cabbage
1 cup diced potatoes
1/2 cup diced carrots
1 stalk minced celery
1 chopped onion
1 1/2 cups canned tomatoes
1/2 cup juice (from can of beets)
1 cup diced and cooked beets
1 teaspoon vinegar
chopped dill or parsley (for garnish)
In large, heavy pan melt butter and lightly sautee cabbage, potatoes, carrots, celery, and onion for approx. 5 minutes. Add beef stock. Blend canned tomatoes or press through a sieve until fine. Add pureed tomatoes and beet juice to stock. Cover and simmer over low heat until vegetables are firmly tender but not soft. At this point, add the chopped beets and vinegar. Season well with salt and pepper and remove from heat before beets begin to lose their color. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinking of dill or parsley over each bowl. Source: cooks.com
*Vegetable stock can also be used.
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