Beets and Friends

I thought this was about beets. Why is there a picture of rainbow chard up there?

Hold on to your butts. I’m about to drop some recently Wikipedia’d knowledge on you.

Beta Vulgaris

Is the planetary system from which all beets originate.

No! It’s the Latin name for the beet species. ALL of the beet species, which includes the following subspecies and variants:

  • Garden beets. You know them as “beets.”
  • Sugar beets. Primarily used industrially to make sugar.
  • Mangelwurzel (aka mangold, but never just ‘Nick‘). Used as animal fodder.

But wait, there’s more!

  • Spinach Beet
  • Chard

Humans cultivated all of these from the original subspecies of sea beet. The only difference is that they cultivated first three with a focus on improving the root while the latter two emphasized the leaf part. That said, I can say that (garden) beet greens are just as delicious as chard.

My high school biology leads me to believe that all of these could be interbred. I challenge someone to either do it or tell me my science is bad.

Let’s focus on the two most common in our markets and kitchens.

Garden Beets

beets
Beet root

Our vegetable CSA last year was overflowing with beets. Week after week of beets drives a person crazy. It’s the main reason we aren’t participating a CSA this year, and will instead be picking and choosing from our local farmers’ markets. My hypothesis is that the most ardent supporters of this particular CSA were all young families, and that they were passing them off on their babies. No adult would willingly eat that many beets.

Delicious. Sweet. Red. They’re great when roasted. Now that we’re removed from that over-saturation, we’re remembering that they’re darn tasty. I don’t even flinch any more when I see one.

Chard

chard
Rainbow Chard

Rainbow chard, Swiss chard, silverbeet. It’s all the same thing. Rainbow chard is just several various chard hybrids: not a particular subvariety of its own. Slightly bitter, you can boil, sauté, or whatever else you’d do with a hearty green. By any estimation, they’re incredibly good for you, too.

If you can’t stomach greens, my suggestion to you is to add some pig. Bacon, ham hock, or whatever you have on hand will make them a lot more palatable. A little sugar and some acid (vinegar or lemon juice) help a lot, too. As you develop a taste for them, you’ll need fewer add-ons to eat them. The acid remains pretty much key, though.

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If you haven’t had beets or chard in a while, I urge you to given them another shot. Done right, they’re darn tasty.

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Really dig beets (get it?)? You’ll probably love this: Beta maritima: The Origin of Beets (available for Kindle!). Actually if it weren’t obscenely expensive, I’d likely check it out.