I love beets, I think they are delicious, I especially love them pickled. I used to work with a nursing assistant who made them and gifted me with a jar or two when she did, lovely gift. Now, my mother is a lovely person, but she didn’t always cook a lot from scratch, so when she was given some garden fresh beets she gave them to me to bring home and cook.
Now, for you to understand my problem, I grew up in a small mountain mining town. Our yard was too small for a garden, which is something my mom never showed an interest in anyway. I got married the first time when I was 18, I affectionately refer to this as my practice marriage, we were like two kids playing house, we didn’t have a clue. By the time I was 22 I was divorced with a 3 year old and a new baby, I married again, and was whisked away to raise my family in a small town in Minnesota. Being from South Dakota I did not realize that all married women in MN must have a garden and can their own vegetables. I didn’t even realize it’s still a law there until I mentioned the fact that I had never gardened, and had no clue how to can. A hushed silence fell over the room, music stopped, people everywhere stopped eating to stare silently at the freak who bought all of her produce. After a shocked silence my neighbor asked, “Well didn’t you help your mom?” At this point I was forced to admit that my mother did not do that type of thing, after several loud gasps, and I think some sobbing from the elderly neighbors, a friend took me under her wing, helped me cultivate my garden,told me what to buy, and taught me to can my own pickles, salsa, tomatoes, and strawberry jam. It was fun, I enjoyed it, but then 2 years later I went back to school to be a nurse and shift work, after that I moved away and have not had a garden since.
Now, back to the beets… I had no idea what to do with those odd looking dirty grayish-purple orbs. I wanted to get them cooked up today before they “turned” on me, and my daughter was in the middle of an online class on our one computer, but never fear, I have a cookbook collection. I went through twelve cookbooks. Twelve. One recipe for Harvard Beets, so named for the crimson color according to Betty, and that did not start with raw beets. Two people I called had a vague idea that you started like a baked potato, so I did, which I later see was wrong. You are supposed to wrap them in foil and bake them, when I bake potatoes I rub them with a little olive oil and pop them in the oven. So that’s what I did with my beets.
90, yes 90, minutes later I was looking at these nasty things that looked like nothing that I, or anyone, would ever want to eat. At this point I wandered into the living room and had a 20 minute discussion with my daughter about the first people to eat root vegetables… what made them look at the root in the dirt and say “Mmm mmm gotta have me some of that, throw it in the oven with some butter and salt & pepper,” and lo it was good.
Eventually I did wander back to the kitchen and started peeling and slicing the beets, and they smelled okay, so I took a bite of it just like it was. It was delicious. I am never eating a beet from a can again. I ate a whole serving of beets, sprinkled with a little sea salt, all by themselves. The things I learn by experience are always the most interesting. I did, just now, look up how to cook beets on the internet, there are several nice looking recipes I may have to try, I also learned the Latin name, which is Beta vulgaris, which explains a lot, I also learned it they are a unique source of phytonutrients called betalains, so they’re healthy as well, and a lovely rich shade of purple. They also dyed my fingers pink, which was rather pretty for a while… happy eating!