Monday, April 6, 2015

Can't Beet This

Over the past few years, we have not done much with beets on the farm.  The primary reason would have to be a guy named Jeff Sage.  Jeff partners with us by growing carrots, beets, parsnips and sweet potatoes that go into our CSA farm shares.  And, has gotten particularly good at growing these crops consistently well, much to our members' happiness!

Chioggia, Touchstone Gold and Bull's Blood beets
I suppose an explanation is in order.  Why don't we grow these on our farm?

The short answer is that we DO grow these on our farm.  But, our soils and conditions, along with our other growing responsibilities make it a bit more difficult for us to grow things like carrots and beets on our farm.  Therefore, since Jeff has better soils and conditions for it AND because he likes to specialize in these items, it makes sense for him to focus on the growing.

What this does for us is it allows us to concentrate on other crops that suit us better and it gives us more time to figure out ways that these crops will grow on our farm.  That process includes identifying timing and varieties that work well for us.  All in all, this is a mutually beneficial arrangement for all concerned.  Jeff grows using organic practices that we would stack right up with our own.  We learn some things from him and he learns some things from us.  And, our members get beets and carrots.  What's not to like?

This post is supposed to focus on beets - so I'd better get to that.  Jeff grows the Detroit Dark Red or Red Ace varieties that are so well known for the rich red color that is common for a beet.  Since we trust him to get these things going for early to mid-season distributions, that allows us to concentrate on a late season crop and on varieties that are NOT the common red color.

Our favorite over the years has been the Chioggia beet.  We had several successful years for Chioggia until 2012.  Then, we hit some cool, wet Springs that caused us some fits with our normal planting schedules.  Sadly, that resulted in some aborted crops and poor germination levels.  This year, we are going to try a batch of Chioggia in the high tunnel for a an early crop.  We have called Chioggia the 'gateway' beet.  People who have had beets and not liked them all that much should try a Chioggia roasted in the oven.  They've got a taste that is a little less earthy and the red and white concentric rings make them an attractive item to put on your plate.

Chioggia beet picture courtesy of Seed Savers
We have grown Touchstone Gold beets once prior to this season.  We found them to have consistent germination and size.  The taste is mild and the beautiful golden color of the flesh is very pleasing.  Like Chioggia, we suspect people who taste these will be surprised that they are a beet.

Our goal for our early crops this year will be to combine some Gold and Chioggia beets with Jeff's red beets.  Later on, we hope to be able to provide choices to allow people to select that which fits their tastes and preparation choices best.

Grilled Veggies (YUM!) - Works for beets, turnips, summer squash, zucchini, potatoes, kohlrabi, etc - anything with some substance
Wash veg. Slice into rounds or half rounds, about 1/2 inch thick. Toss lightly with olive oil (putting slices in a bowl, sprinkling olive oil over and tossing the veg around works well) and add any desired spicing (sea salt, chopped marjoram or basil, pepper, garlic all work well).  If you like mushrooms, you can add those as well.

 Grill for about 5 or more minutes, depending on how soft you want the vegetables and the types of veg you are cooking.  Turn them once or twice - or three times if you feel that is a charm.  Just remember that the more times you open the grill, the longer it will take to cook. They are done when you can easily stick a fork in them.

Remember that some vegetables are harder than others and will take longer to cook.  So, you may choose to start things like beets and turnips before you add something that has more water content, such as zucchini.
Recommended by Rob and Tammy.

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