Perusing a farmer’s market, or any farm stand, is fun for me. While it feels as if I buy too much, I somehow manage to find a meal for the fresh fruits and vegetables. What I also find, is foods I have never tried before. Farmers, I have learned, know how to use their crops; just about every last bit.
During one trip to the Montclair farmer’s market, I came across bunches of very small beets, that just screamed, “pickle me!” so I scooped them up and asked the gentleman behind the table to please remove the tops, for which I presumably had no use and I knew would take up way too much space in my bags.
“Don’t you want to eat them?” he asked.
“Eat them?” I replied, absolutely sure I was making a guest appearance in Green Eggs and Ham.
I asked him how to cook them and the answer was a very simple, “sauté them in a little olive oil with salt and pepper.”
I was up for the challenge and left the table with full bags and an idea of exactly how I wanted to prepare my beet tops.
Beet tops behave a lot like spinach. They start out big, leafy, covered in a dusting of dirt, and leave that funny film on your teeth after eating them, just like spinach. They need to be rinsed thoroughly a few times, and I took the liberty of cutting off the bottom stems just in case they were going to taste bitter. Beet tops also take up a lot of space in a pan at the beginning of cooking, but much like spinach they cook down to a much smaller size. In the end, my little experiment was delicious and if you’ve heard anything about the book Eating on the Wild Side, beet tops are just the kinds of food we should be eating more of.
Sautéed Beet Tops
tops from 2-3 bunches of beets
6 slices of thick cut bacon cut into 1/2″ pieces
1-2 leeks, cleaned and sliced (white part only) OR 1/4 of a yellow onion, diced (both are shown in the pictures below)
salt and pepper to taste
Rinse the beet tops in a bowl of cold water several times.
In a large sauté pan with high sides, place the bacon. Cook on medium low heat until it starts to brown.
Add leeks or onions to the pan and continue to cook.
Add cleaned beet tops to pan with any remaining water left on the leaves. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Stir gently with tongs while the tops cook, mixing the bacon and onion together with the leaves.
Notes from my experience:
This was really easy to make and I think has a lot of possibilities for additional flavors. The second time I made it was when I decided to add the bacon and I think even from there one could experiment with tomatoes, red pepper flakes, olives or even summer squashes.
This side dish cooks up quickly which makes it great for a summer night, as there isn’t enough time to really heat up the kitchen.