The Beautiful Beets

One recent Spring morning, I spied a beautiful stack of beets on a table at the Union Square Greenmarket. There was no sign indicating the price, but in the way that only a produce geek can, I thought, "I must have those beets!" I picked out a particularly delectable looking bunch and walked up to the woman behind the table who said, "Five dollars."

I thought, "Five dollars!? For a bunch of beets!? I am all about buying local at the greenmarket, but that is just too much!"

I did not say this... Instead, I paused. Normally, beets at the market are around $3.00 a bunch (give or take $.50). Putting the beets back, however, seemed an embarrassing option. I also thought this may be impolite. A true midwestern dilemma--sticker shock duking it out in the ring of my consciousness with the fear of being rude.

I bought the beets, but I felt a little annoyed that I hadn't been a more savvy consumer.

To be fair, however, they were the first beets I saw at the market, and they were a gorgeous purple-red. The greens were vibrant and alert without a hint of wither.

I roasted the beets that night with my favorite method--trim, peel and chop into large bite-size pieces; toss with olive oil, lemon pepper, and sea salt; cover with foil and roast at 400 degrees for 15 minutes; uncover and continue roasting until beets are tender and caramelized. (If I'm in the mood, I'll use curry powder instead of lemon pepper.)

I also sautéed the greens with garlic, olive oil, and a touch of salt. I know some of you don't believe me, but beet greens can be delicious. Please just try sautéing fresh beet greens with garlic and olive oil before you cast them aside forever.

The key is, they need to be fresh. I suggest buying them at a farmer's market, washing them right away and cooking them within a few days. The greens can be a bit gritty. I soak them in the sink twice, giving them a good rinse after the second soaking, and then run them through the salad spinner.

But... back to my $5 beets. Were they worth it? Perhaps because they were so precious, the flavor of both beets and greens was impeccable.

Would I buy $5 beets again? No! I'd wait a few weeks and load up on $3 bunches, which is what I did this week. They were equally beautiful, and my canning shelf now has several jars of beets transforming into pickles as I type this post. And that makes me very happy indeed.