This is my week to try to finish up planting the vegetable garden. Yes, I know I'm a bit late. I kept encountering delays along the way.
I've just finally planted my zucchini and yellow squash and my cucumbers this week. Yesterday, I also planted a bed of sunflowers. I can't have a garden without sunflowers! I may add one or two more things - definitely a few more herbs, now that I've pulled out some of my cold weather herbs - but the veggie garden is now essentially complete.
My Russian banana fingerling potatoes that were planted in January and took forever to come up are looking great now. The tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants look good, too, although still a bit small because they were planted late. My haricot vert bush beans are coming along like gangbusters and the corn is looking - well, not that great actually, but I'm working on that. I'm still harvesting carrots from my fall crop and I have a late spring crop now coming along. Can't be without carrots.
Yesterday, in addition to planting, I also harvested. Before I could plant my sunflowers, I had to clear out the beet bed. It was time for them to be harvested anyway. They had been in the ground since late fall. They were surprised by the early freeze and then the continuing cold weather kept them small for several weeks, but they came through it all just fine and finally produced the nice roots for which they are famous.
When I pulled them all from the ground and cut off the tops leaving about an inch or so of the greens, I had a nice full basket of nutrient rich veggies. Now what?
I like beets most any way they can be prepared. They make wonderful soup (borscht) or can be simply sliced and boiled or baked as a side dish. I even found, when I did an Internet search, that there is a beet cake! When I mentioned that to Bob, he looked at me as if I had lost my mind, and when I thought about it, the whole concept just seemed wrong to me. So, no beet cake for us.
Then, of course, there are beet pickles. My family is particularly fond of beet pickles, and so was there ever really any doubt as to how my beets would be prepared? Beet pickles it would be!
The only problem was that by the time I got around to cleaning the beets, I was too pooped to pickle. I washed them and put them on the stove to boil in some water. After they were tender and cooled, I removed their skins and put them in a big plastic tub in the refrigerator to wait until I was rested and had time to deal with them.
That time was not to come today. I had a couple of appointments that took me away from the house, but if all goes well, tomorrow afternoon my beets and I have a date, and there shall be pickles!
Should you ever want to raise your own beets and follow my pickling example, my advice, if you live in my part of the world, is to plant them in the fall. They prefer to grow in cool weather. Once they are ready, here is your pickle recipe. This recipe will yield 10 pint jars of pickles. You can easily adjust it to fit the quantity of beets that you have.
•10 pounds fresh small beets, stems removed
•2 cups white sugar
•1 tablespoon pickling salt
•1 quart white vinegar
•1/4 cup whole cloves
•Place beets in a large stockpot with water to cover. Bring to a boil, and cook until tender, about 15 minutes depending on the size of the beets. If beets are large, cut them into quarters. Drain, reserving 2 cups of the beet water, cool and peel.
•Sterilize jars and lids by immersing in boiling water for at least 10 minutes. Fill each jar with beets and add several whole cloves to each jar.
•In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, beet water, vinegar, and pickling salt. Bring to a rapid boil. Pour the hot brine over the beets in the jars, and seal lids.
•Place a rack in the bottom of a large stockpot and fill halfway with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then carefully lower the jars into the pot using a holder. Leave a 2 inch space between the jars. Pour in more boiling water if necessary until the water level is at least 1 inch above the tops of the jars. Bring the water to a full boil, cover the pot, and process for 10 minutes.
One word of advice: Before pouring the brine over the beets, taste it and make sure that it is not either too sour or too sweet for your taste. At this point, you can adjust it if needed. Also, some people, myself included, like to add a cinnamon stick to each jar, or you can add other spices according to your own taste. The point is to play with it and make it your own recipe. Finally, you'll come up with a taste that you just can't beet - er - beat. Happy pickling!