One thing you learn when you grow vegetables, is that pretty common vegetables can actually be used, and eaten at, many different stages in their life cycle than we are commonly used to. A few years back now I traveled to China for my brother’s wedding, and one of the things i remember most about the food there was how many vegetables the Chinese used in stages American’s would have never considered. Veggies that were flowering, veggies that were smaller, different parts of the veggies than what we would normally eat. And it was all DELICIOUS!
One of the crops we harvest that falls soundly into this category is something we are drowning in right now – Baby Beet Greens (aka thinnings).
Now beet thinnings are something that happen as part of growing a beet. You see, a beet seed is really a “cluster” of seeds together. And if you get good germination in your planting, your young plants will be too closely spaced to size up and make a good hearty “beet.” So you have to “thin” the plants. Now anybody that has worked so so hard to grow vegetables knows how painful it is to just toss a perfectly edible plant away. But luckily – Beet Thinnings are WONDERFULLY edible. Just most folks don’t know about them or what the heck to do with them. So that’s where this blog comes in…
Beets are kissing cousins with spinach and even more closely related to chard. That means the greens are perfectly edible. In fact, if you are like me and my father, you will prefer sauteed beet greens over about any other braised or sauteed green. (I like them tossed with butter and kosher salt, my dad prefers a bit of balsamic vinegar). They are fairly similar to chard in flavor, a bit more earthy in my opinion. At the market I often will have folks buy a bunch of beets, and a bunch of chard, and ask us to “trim off” the greens on the beets as they don’t want them. Well okay…As the saying goes – The customer is always right!
So you can really eat beet greens at all stages, but beet thinnings…well they are the tender baby superstar version of beet greens. (In fact, it is not uncommon to get baby beet greens in salad mixes they are so tender and tasty). And boy do we got ’em! We planted a LOT of beets for our summer sales and the germination was great, so that means LOTS of thinnings. I’ve posted three great recipes I enjoy for beet thinnings below (might have to do the pasta one for dinner tonite). So hoping you come and check them out today at the farmer’s markets! We will be at Bayview with loads and Prairie Bottom has beet thinnings at the Coupeville market as well.
And of course, we’ve got plenty of things to go with our beet thinnings today including…
* Fava Beans * New Potatoes * Kale * Walla salad onions * Scallions * Carrots * Big Beet bunches * Japanese Salad Turnips * Radishes * Fresh Garlic * Garlic Scapes * Head Lettuce * Mesclun Mix * Spinach bunches * Arugula * Rhubarb * Kohlrabi * Dry Beans and more! Hope to see you there!
Farmer Georgie, Willowood Farm
Pasta with beet greens, goat cheese feta and hazelnuts
(adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe)
- Kosher salt and ground pepper
- Linguine – preferably fresh
- Couple tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Greens from 2 bunches beet, cut up high so mostly just the greens. Rinsess and coarsely chopped.
- 1/3 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped
- 2 ounces Little Brown Farm Feta
Boil water and put on the linguine.
In large skilled, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil on medium high heat. Add garlic and cook until just starting to get tender. Add beet greens and cook, stirring until beets just start to wilt – not long, about 1 to 2 minutes. Drain pasta, and reserve about a cup of pasta water. Combine garlic and beet greens with pasta and hazeluts and stir to combine. Add cheese and toss, add enough pasta water to make a creamy sauce. Drizzle with oil, salt and pepper to taste.
Balsamic Beet Greens & Goat Cheese Crostini Recipe
- about one bunch beet greens
- 1 TreeTop Baking Baguette, sliced thin (about 20 pieces), toasted in pan or oven,
- about 6 oz Little Brown Farm chevre
- 1 t fresh Lemon Juice or Lemon Zest
- very thin slices of fresh Lemons (optional)
- 1/2 t Sea Salt
- 1 t Balsamic Vinegar, or more if needed
- fresh cracked Black Pepper
- For cooking the greens: Wash leaves and trim long root on baby beet, leave whole unless baby beet is getting close to marble size. If they baby beet is bigger, cut the plant so the beet itself is sliced in half (the idea is to have the beet part be small enough to steam up fairly quickly). Heat water to boil in pot with steaming colander. Steam greens until beets roots are tender (leaves should be plenty done by then). Taste a piece of stem and leaves until they are blanched to your liking. Quickly drain greens and rinse with cold water. Add greens to bowl, squeeze out excess water, then add balsamic vinegar and salt to taste.
- In bowl, combine goat cheese, fresh lemon juice and fresh cracked black pepper. Combine well.
- Spread goat cheese on crostini (toasted baguette slices) with goat cheese, thin layer of lemon sliced, and beet green greens.
Herbed Baby Beets with Greens
1 bunch beet thinnings
2 tbs vegetable oil
juice of one lemon
1 Walla salad onion, chopped
½ tsp Dill weed
Kosher salt to taste
Wash beets and leaves and remove any inedible portion. Heat oil, lemon juice, onion, and herbs in a heavy pan with a tight fitting lid. Add beets with leaves attached, and steam over medium heat. Check after 5 minutes, adding a small amount of water if necessary to prevent burning. Cook a few minutes more, until beets are fork tender.