Beeting the heat
Yes, the title of this blog post is a horrible food pun. Please keep reading.
If you’re a backyard or community gardener, CSA member, farmer’s market-goer, or volunteer, you’re probably aware that it’s beet season. One of the things I’ve noticed as I’ve helped out at the River Road Farm CSA is that some people are weary of beets— I see people picking through the selection trying to find the smallest ones. The hesitancy is understandable; until recently, I could only think of two basic uses for beets: raw in salads and roasted in salads. I wasn’t thinking very creatively.
Beets have a deep, rich flavor reminiscent of the soil they grow and mature in. We grow three varieties at River Road: the classic, deeply colored Detroit Dark Red, the sunny orange Golden, and the red and pink striped Chioggias. You might be growing these in your garden, or seeing them in your CSA at one of our other farms. In any case, all have that classic, rich flavor, but the Golden beets are slightly lighter and more delicate than the other two varieties. Another common characteristic is their slightly sweet flavor, which is one of the reasons beets are such a great addition to salads and other savory dishes.
But, let’s face it— no one wants to turn on their oven in the middle of summer to roast all their beets, and eventually the salad route gets old. And, with the sheer numbers of beets maturing and ready for harvest this time of year, some imagination is called for.
As I was eating a beet the other day, I started thinking about utilizing their sweet flavor. It was one of those terribly hot days and the thing I was craving more than anything else was Big Dipper’s pomegranate sorbet. But, alas, I didn’t have that pomegranate sorbet. All I had was a salad with beets, slightly warm from sitting in my backpack for four hours. I wondered if it was possible to enhance the natural sweetness of beets, and use the flavor as a sweetener, perhaps (a ha!) in a sorbet. You can even harness their power in other sweet recipes. Here are a few ideas from our friends at The Kitchn, plus one more way you can enjoy beets for dessert.
Sure enough, the recipe exists and it’s incredibly simple. It does, however, require a food processor. If you’re an ill-prepared college student like me, you may have to borrow one from your landlords.
- 2 cups beet puree (3 large beets, 4 medium beets, or 6 small beets)
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Wash and quarter the beets. Place in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then let simmer for about 30 minutes, until the beets are soft enough to stick a fork into.
- Pour the beets and their cooking juices into a food processor and blend until you have a fairly smooth puree. Chill the puree in the fridge for about an hour.
- Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring so the sugar dissolves. Once at a boil, immediately remove from heat and chill in the fridge for about an hour.
- Once both components are chilled, mix them together along with the lemon juice in the saucepan.
- This is the step where having an ice cream maker would be super handy: if you have one, pour the mixture in and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to make sorbet. If you’re like me and you don’t have one, put the saucepan of sorbet in the freezer for 20-30 minutes and stir thoroughly. Make sure to blend all of the frozen bits. You’ll need to keep repeating this step every 30 minutes or so, until you get the desired texture: evenly frozen, not too chunky. 5 times or so should do the trick.
- Freeze the sorbet for 4-5 hours before serving.
- You can add lots of fun ingredients to enhance the flavor! I liked lemon and ginger (I chopped up some crystallized ginger and mixed it in during step 4). I’ve also heard honey is a good addition, as is orange juice instead of lemon juice.
A word from the PEAS Farm
Josh Slotnick, co-founder of Garden City Harvest and Director of the GCH/EVST PEAS Farm shares his perspective on the unseasonable weather we’ve been experiencing as of late. His candid explanation paints a picture of your farmers’ experience in adapting to changing climate conditions, and why its challenging to predict exactly what will end up in your weekly veggie share:
“Extreme heat mixed up the months for us at the PEAS farm. We had July in June, and basically no May at all. For the CSA, this has meant some summer treats early— we recently were able to give out eggplants and peppers, an unheard of offering in mid-July. Now, in actual July, we appear to be getting June, so all those warm weather plants put on their brakes, so to speak.
The early heat made the weeds go crazy, but we are getting caught up as our numbers are high. Climate change, thy name is volatility! It appears, unfortunately, we are slower to adapt than climate is to change. All in all, the season is unfolding well, and like everyone else, we are grateful for what looks like a reduction in fire danger. Working in the smoke pleases no one, and Cajun smoked zucchini has never been a big hit. We’ll settle for slower growing tomatoes.”