Beetroots didn’t used to be glamorous, I grew up eating huge beetroots dressed in malt vinegar but these days they have quite another image, as they have gained superfood status.
It is now known that beetroots increase blood supply to the brain reducing the risk of vascular dementia, they lower blood pressure and decrease the chance of a stroke, and are one of the best anti-inflammatory vegetables on the planet. There are various other claims including a fascinating treatment of concentrated beetroot juice or puree rubbed into the scalp to cure dandruff, which sounds like it might give a wonderful itch-free purple head.
We grow a few varieties in our garden – the traditional purple beetroots, stripy pink beetroots and golden yellow beetroots. They all taste like beetroots so not much difference there but eaten raw they look beautiful. Cooking the stripy pink ones renders them a disappointing pale pink. We juice them, bake them, make salads with them and make cakes and muffins
The baby leaves of the beetroots are delicious in salads and bigger leaves can be cooked like spinach so if you get your hands on freshly harvested beets there’s a possibility of two meals from one veg.
Unlike the courgettes and beans, which were horrified by the stormy start to last month, beetroots are happy to soldier on in any weather.
They feature widely in Scandinavian and Russian recipes so they are obviously not afraid of the cold and they certainly thrive in our garden.
Here’s a recipe that we have added to our salad repertoire at the shop.
The lightly pickled onion and fennel brighten everything up – proving my mum was right about the vinegar. Tossed together with cooked beetroot and buckwheat this makes a tasty and nutritious dish.
200g raw buckwheat
a pinch of salt
1 small bulb of fennel
5-6 small beetroots, cooked and cooled
1 small red onion
1tbs white balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar
quarter tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
75mls olive oil
a handful freshly chopped mint
a handful freshly chopped parsley
Measure the water into a saucepan, add the salt and bring to the boil then pour in the buckwheat. When the water returns to the boil cover with a lid and turn to the lowest simmer.
Cook for 15-20 minutes, until all the water has been absorbed and the buckwheat is tender. Tip the cooked buckwheat into a large bowl and leave to cool
Trim the fennel, removing the green frondy part. This can be kept for another day – soup, salad etc or compost if you don’t think you’re going to get around to using it. Cut the bulb in half lengthwise then slice as finely as possible. Peel the onion and slice very thinly.
Mix the balsamic vinegar with a little salt and sugar then pour over the onions and fennel and massage it well. Leave aside for half an hour.
Peel the beetroots and chop into a small dice. Season the beetroot with a little salt.
Tip the fennel and onions into the buckwheat, add the chopped parsley and mint and dress with olive oil. Toss everything together and check the seasoning.
When you are happy, gently toss the beetroot into the salad. DO NOT OVERMIX. This is important otherwise although the salad will taste good it will become a sludgy pink instead of studded with purple.