Summer is almost here. We have been blessed with an abundance of rain followed by some glorious sunny days. Local produce is filling the tables at New Haven’s CitySeed, and this popular market is brimming with new foods waiting to be discovered. It’s the perfect time to bring back Market Find of the Week.
This season’s first item? The Chioggia Beet, an early beet with a surprise inside. Just slice a Chioggia open, and you will reveal a beautiful candy-striped pattern. This beet, also known as Early Flat Balsamo, has been sold at Connecticut’s Comstock, Ferre & Co. since the 1850s.
|The Chioggias are striped. Aren't they pretty?|
The UC Davis Good Life Garden blog provides a wealth of information on this heirloom vegetable. The roots of these beets lie in the Italian seacoast town of Chioggia; they most likely brought to the US by immigrants in the mid 19th-century. They are very sweet. But if you do not like earthy beets, Chioggias are not the beets for you. They contain a higher concentration of geosmin, the organic compound which gives beets their earthy taste and smell. You would be better off trying the milder Golden Beets.
As with any kind of beets, there is a plethora of ways to enjoy them, and several ways to cook them. Beets are so small and tender right now that you can even grate them and eat them raw.
The vendor suggested sautéing them in butter. I Googled and found several variations on that simple theme. What did I do? I peeled them, sliced them thin, melted some butter, added some dried thyme, and sautéed the slices until they were tender. The beets were organic and their leaves in great shape, so I washed the greens well, chopped them roughly, and added them to the tender beet slices. I covered the pan, turned the heat down, and cooked the beets and greens gently until the greens were nicely wilted. I then mixed in some crumbled goat cheese. With a side of hearty rye bread from New Haven’s Whole G Bakery, this was a perfect light supper.
The only thing I might do differently next time is to boil the beets gently until tender, pop off their skins instead of peeling them when raw, and then slice and sauté them. Peeling a bunch of such tiny beets was a bit of a chore and a little wasteful.
However you prepare them, enjoy your beets. And get to the market early. Chioggias have become very popular. There were just a few mixed into the bunch I bought on Saturday. And just one hour into the market, this was the very last bunch for sale!
Please come back soon for more food facts or my latest produce discovery. Thanks for reading.
I often blog on food, food issues, or topics related to growing things on Monday in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”