On the Farm with Sean Fowler: Beets

Chef Sean Fowler shares his tips and tricks for using seasonal produce.

“The lesson of the beet …. is this: hold on to your divine blush, your innate rosy magic, or end up brown.”

Tom Robbins leaves the reader with this tender morsel of wisdom on the final page of his novel, Jitterbug Perfume. Kudra and Alobar, two fated lovers, spend the pages of the book chasing true love and the secrets of immortality through time, space, and various planes of existence, only to discover life’s secrets residing in a neon edible taproot: the beet. The beet’s lesson is simple: the key to a substantial life is living every day to its fullest. By retaining a childlike sense of humor and joy and wonder, you might not live forever, but you can maximize the depth and length of your time on earth.

What better embodiment of this joie de vivre than the most lively and flamboyant vegetables in the garden, the beet. The beet is a wellspring of culinary vibrancy in appearance as well as flavor. We eat the entire plant—leaves, stem and taproot, but it is the beetroot that brings the most to the palate. It has an elemental aspect to it; it literally comes from the earth and it tastes like it. Beets look like hearts and bleed a fluorescent red when cooked. They add life to dishes with their ethereal sweetness, while simultaneously remaining tethered to the ground in which they are grown. Their flavor is both earthly and sublime.

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Few vegetables have as much versatility or innate potential as the beet. They hold up to any method of preparation and almost any flavor pairing. While I have a soft spot for a roasted beet, I literally cannot count the number of ways that I have prepared beets over the course of my career. I have probably paired them with most proteins on the menu: fish, fowl, beef, lamb, pork and game. Beets have the potential to improve almost any ingredient with which you pair them, but always run the risk of bleeding onto their neighbors and stealing the show, so restraint and moderation are always recommended.

I have no data to prove that beets will extend the length of your life, but I do know that incorporating more beets into your diet is sure to improve your quality of life and your enjoyment around the table.