30 June, 2008

Local Food: Beet Greens

Every year, one of the local farms plants acres of beets. And for a few glorious weeks in late June/early July, their farm stand is loaded with lovely tender beet greens as the crop is progressively thinned out to make room for the developing roots. Beet greens are near the top of my list of favorite vegetables, and so I look forward to this time of year; I stop at the farm stand every few days to pick up a couple of pounds of greens.

Beet greens are a "comfort food" for me; my mom used to buy them when I was a kid because they were so much cheaper than spinach, so in the spring and early summer we had them a lot. She used to select the smallest greens she could find, with barely a trace of a beetroot at the tip, and cook them just like she did with spinach - steaming them or simmering them gently in a very small amount of water.

I buy the greens more indiscriminately, just grabbing big ol' bundles of leaves, red stems, and baby beets, and cook them long and slow to make them tender and bring out the full flavor:
  1. Rinse the greens well to remove any traces of sand, then shake them dry
  2. Heat up a couple of tablespoons of bacon fat in the bottom of a heavy Dutch oven
  3. Keep the fire high and drop handfuls of the greens into the pot. Stir them around to wilt them, and as each handful wilts, add more.
  4. When all the greens are in the pot and have had a chance to sizzle and wilt in the hot fat, add a bit of salt and pepper and a small amount of water (usually about a quarter of a cup is enough,) cover the pot, and turn the heat down to low.
  5. Simmer the greens, covered, for at least half an hour while you prepare the rest of the meal. Don't worry if you take longer to fix supper. The greens just get better as they cook.
For a different flavor, try this method using chicken fat or butter (it's especially delicious with butter.)



Anonymous said...

Interesting - I've never really noticed beet greens for sale by themselves; I usually just buy the beets and reserve the greens for another use. I like your treatment of them - relatively simple, but very flavorful!

Dave said...

They used to be very common in the supermarkets around here; when I was growing up, my mother used to buy them in season because they were half the price of spinach. Nowadays, I can only find them at this one local farm stand. If you have farmers markets open near you this early in the seaon, you might be able to find them there. Having the little baby beets on them makes them extra special to me.

Anonymous said...

If I promise to leave some for you will you tell me which farm stand?

Dave said...

Johnny's Roadside Market Garden, on North Maple Street in Enfield. They open in mid-to-late April to sell plants (veggies and flowers) and then start selling veggies etc. a little later as the first produce starts coming in from the local farms.