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Published on July 13, 2021

Jan’s garden: You can’t beat those home-grown beets

By Janice R. Edwards
The Bulletin

I wasn’t going to write a column about my beets because – well, frankly, I didn’t think they would make. Turns out, though, with this strange, cold spring, they are doing better than the tomatoes.

Who knew?

The beets were an experiment for me. I have never done well with root crops. For instance, anybody can grow radishes. I LOVE fresh radishes, but when I plant them, all I get is a skinny red root. I thought the beets might have a similar fate, but I wanted to try them. I love pickled beets, but Roy does not. SO, I figured, if all I got was two or three, that would be O.K.

So, this Spring, I went to Reifle’s feed store and got some bulk beet seeds. I planted the seeds some distance apart on both sides of the potato seedlings and on both ends of the Pink Brandywine tomato barrel. I really didn’t expect much, but I think every seed came up. They were planted too close together to make very big beets, but I couldn’t bring myself to rip out perfectly good plants, just hoping the others would get bigger.

I should have done that, though, because the seeds that fell outside my neat little rows got the biggest – not that they were anything to write home about. I think the liquid tomato food worked its magic on the seedlings, and they grew right along with the tomato plant. In my last column, I said it looked like they were getting ready to harvest – that’s when the root part of the beet starts to show above the ground.

Recently, I got a spurt of energy and decided to make a beet harvest. I grabbed my colander and gardening gloves and walked down to the containers. These containers are under the Purple Martin houses, and I got buzzed by parent birds while conducting my little harvest. I washed the beets with the hose and took them to the kitchen, where I immediately prepared them to boil. I was going to have pickled beets for dinner that night, I thought.

I watched my Mom do this a hundred times. You must leave parts of the stem on the root when you boil it to keep the color in the beet. I did that, and before I knew it, they were cooked to perfection. After they cooled a bit, I peeled them and I started to slice them, but realized I could not remember Mom’s recipe for the pickling juice for the refrigerator pickled beets. So, I Googled recipes and looked until I found one that was like Mom’s.

I knew what Mom put in, just not what proportions. This recipe was close, but not quite like Mom’s, so I improvised. The recipe below is the closest I could come to Mom’s recipe, and it has since been taste-tested by me, and it ranks a gold star. You can use this recipe for home- grown, raw beets you cook yourself, fresh beets from the grocery store or even canned beets. But let me make it clear – this is for REFRIGERATED pickled beets. If you are canning them for a longer sit on your pantry shelf, use a different recipe. Refrigerated pickled beets will last six weeks in the refrigerator. They won’t last that long at my house.

REFRIGERATED PICKLED BEETS

Ingredients:
Bunch of cooked, sliced beets
Pickling juice:
1 cup water
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons pickling spice

Mix all pickling liquid ingredients together in a pot. Bring to a simmer and simmer until sugar is dissolved. Let cool while you slice your cooked beets into the container you are going to keep them in the fridge. I find they taste better in glass, not plastic. Cover the beets with the pickling liquid, cool about 10 minutes and put in refrigerator. Let them set one day – then enjoy your labor!
Please note the purple beet pickling juice will stain, so take precautions.

From this recipe, I guess you can see I did not eat pickled beets that same night; I had to wait a day. It was worth the wait. I could almost hear my Mom say, “Good job!” when I tasted the first bite. I think those had to be the best pickled beets I ever tasted. I guess there is something to be said about blending tradition with growing, cooking and pickling your own beets. And on the plus side, there looks like enough beets for a second picking in a week or so. I am blessed.

(Write Janice in care of The Bulletin. Email: john.bulletin@gmail.com. Snail mail: The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton TX, 77516.)