In season: beets

Beets come in all shapes and sizes. The round red beet is the most familiar, but there are golden beets and cylindrical beets, striped beets and beets that are grown just for their greens.

Greg Brown of Greenleaf Farm in Barnesville, an hour south of Atlanta, grows some of all these types. During the winter he can be found selling his vegetables at the Decatur Farmers Market on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings. When spring arrives, you’ll find him back at the Peachtree Road market, or you can participate in his community-supported agriculture program by buying a box of produce on the farm or having it delivered in the Atlanta area.

Any other year, he’d have beets for sale in December and January. Round beets like ‘Detroit Red’ and striped beets like ‘Chioggia.’ He’d have golden beets and ‘Bull’s Blood’ beets with their deep burgundy leaves. But this fall, a host of army worms descended on his beet crop and ate everything in sight. “I was completely unprepared. They ate the leaves and young shoots right down to the ground. They moved over the field like a wave,” said Brown. The little beet roots didn’t have a chance.

He’s now replanted and hopes to have beets available in late February or early March.

He finds his customers love beets despite the bad reputation beets sometimes have. “And I like to remind my customers that as nutritious as the roots are, the greens are even more so. Some people are surprised at the idea of eating the greens, but I tell them the beet is a cousin of Swiss chard,” said Brown.

At home, Brown and his wife love roasted beets, but they also pickle beets with apple cider vinegar and peppercorns. And the greens? They like those in a simple saute with garlic.

The good news for farmers market customers is that not everyone lost their beet crop. Beets should be available at most markets until spring.

When buying beets with their greens attached, cut off the greens when you get them home, leaving about an inch still attached to the beet. Rinse the greens and store loosely wrapped in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Rinse the roots and store them in the refrigerator as well.

At local farmers markets

Many local farmers markets have closed for the season. However, the Marietta Square, Decatur and Morningside farmers markets continue all year round.

For sale

Vegetables and nuts: arugula, Asian greens, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chard, collards, cucumbers, dandelion, endive, escarole, fennel, frisee, green garlic, green onions, herbs, Jerusalem artichokes, kale, leeks, lettuce, mache, mustard greens, pecans, popping corn, radicchio, radishes, rutabaga, spinach, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turnips and turnip greens, winter squash

From local reports

Parsley’s Custom Catering’s ‘Mother-in-Law’ Beet Salad

Hands on: 20 minutes

Total time:

Serves: 6

Marc Sommers, chef and owner of Parsley’s Custom Catering, says he “borrowed” this recipe from his Belarusian mother-in-law. When he makes it, he uses housemade spicy dill pickles. You can find spicy dills at the grocery store as well. The combination of root vegetables plays up the sweetness of each, and the pickles provide all the tartness needed. Since the vegetables are boiled in their jackets, be sure to scrub each well before cooking.

3 russet potatoes (about 1 1/4 pounds)

4 large carrots (about 3/4 pound)

3 beets (about 1 pound)

2 small onions, divided

1 cup chopped dill pickles

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/3 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper

Parsley, lemon wedges, carrot slices for garnish

In a large pot, bring lightly salted water to a boil. Add whole potatoes, carrots and beets. Quarter one onion and add to the pot. Boil until vegetables are fork tender, removing each when it is done to prevent overcooking. Carrots should be done in about 15 minutes, the beets and potatoes in about 30 minutes. When all vegetables are cooked, discard onion and cooking liquid.

Cool vegetables, peel and dice. In a large bowl, combine diced potatoes, carrots and beets. Dice the remaining onion and add to the mixture along with pickles and garlic. Add olive oil and toss. Season to taste. Refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving. Garnish with chopped parsley, lemon wedges and carrot slices as desired.

Per serving, based on 6: 161 calories (percent of calories from fat, 14), 4 grams protein, 32 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams fiber, 3 grams fat (trace saturated), no cholesterol, 570 milligrams sodium.

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