Friday, February 20, 2009

Beet Greens, the Underappreciated Veggie

Years ago I did a shameful thing. I knew the key to buying good beets was to purchase them with crisp greens intact. So I bought beautiful whole beets from the local farmer's market. I made delicious things with the actual roots, but I threw away the tops. At the same time, I was buying bunches of swiss chard and kale. How foolish I was! Beet greens are delicious and nutritious, with a taste and texture similar to chard. And when you consider that you're actually getting two separate veggies from a single purchase, it's very economical, too.

You can cook beet greens like chard or kale: thoroughly wash, trim the woody core, and slice into 1" strips. You can then sautee them with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and a bit of broth, with a little red pepper flakes, or do what I did, and throw them in a soup for the last ten minutes of cooking. They go great with cannellini beans, rosemary, and if you like, a little Italian chicken sausage, topped with a grating of hard Italian cheese like Parmigiano Reggiano.

No recipe here, really. In a large saucepan, sweat an onion in a couple teaspoons of olive oil til soft. If you have a couple pieces of bacon, or a couple links of sausage, cook that first, set aside, then cook the onion in the pan with the fat. Add in a couple cups of broth (low sodium if using store-bought), a can of drained and rinsed cannellini beans, a little fresh or dried rosemary and thyme, chopped fine (just a half a tsp if dried, a little more if fresh), and the tops of 3 beets, washed, stemmed, and cut into 1" pieces. You could also add thin slices of carrots, diced raw or drained canned tomatoes. If you have a parmesan rind, throw that in, too - it lends a great flavor to soups. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Add back in any bacon or sausage, let warm, serve into bowls, and top with a drizzle of good quality olive oil and a small grating of parmesan.

Don't like beans? That's ok, throw in some cooked pasta for the last few minutes, or cook some small pasta like orzo or macaroni in the broth, just expect the broth amount to go down, so add some more broth in, if you like.

A healthy, quick, versatile and hearty soup in a snap! Add a warm sourdough roll, some crostini, or a slice of focaccia for a simple meal.

Beets are great and in season (at least around Western Washington) almost year round. Stay tuned for more beet recipes!


  1. Preach it. The majesty of the beet plant goes further than most realize.

  2. I agree with what you were saying above, beet greens + beets = 2 for 1 veggies! Not to mention both parts will be of a better quality. I'm excited our farmer's market is finally opening, and I've been craving beets lately. Perhaps beet salad one day, and a soup another?