The new season’s beets are just ready to harvest. The beets are swelling everyday but one can eat them from when they are the size of a table tennis ball. We love them served hot as a vegetable when they are young and sweet but we use the stalks and leaves too. The leaves are delicious served fresh in a salad or visited down like spinach (see recipes). The stalks and leaves can be served together as in the Beetroot Tops recipe or the stalks can be blanched,refreshed and drained then just tossed in a little extra virgin olive oil and some freshly snipped herbs and serve warm or cold. Young beetroot tops are full of flavour and are often unnecessarily discarded; but if you grow your own beetroots, remember to cook the stalks as well. When the leaves are tiny they make a really worthwhile addition to the salad bowl, both in terms of nutrition and flavour. This isn’t worth doing unless you have lovely young leaves. When they become old and slightly wilted, feed them to the hens or add them to the compost.
Beetroot Tops (stalks and leaves)
- 450g (1lb) fresh beetroot tops
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- butter or olive oil
Keeping them separate, cut the beetroot stalks and leaves into rough 5cm(2in) pieces. First cook the stalks in boiling salted water (1.8litres/3 pints water to 1 1⁄2 teaspoons salt) for 3–4 minutes or until tender. Then add the leaves and cook for a further 2–3minutes. Drain, season and toss in a little butter or olive oil.Serve immediately.
Beetroot Tops with Cream
Substitute 75–125ml (3–4fl oz) cream for olive oil in the recipe above. A little freshly grated nutmeg is also delicious. Taste and correct the seasoning.