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Garden to Table: Roasted Beets with Scallion Bulbs and Basil

July 9, 2013

Beets and Scallions Garden
From the oval-shaped flower-bed there rose perhaps a hundred stalks spreading into heart-shaped or tongue-shaped leaves half way up and unfurling at the tip red or blue or yellow petals marked with spots of colour raised upon the surface; and from the red, blue or yellow gloom of the throat emerged a straight bar, rough with gold dust and slightly clubbed at the end. The petals were voluminous enough to be stirred by the summer breeze, and when they moved, the red, blue and yellow lights passed one over the other, staining an inch of the brown earth beneath with a spot of the most intricate colour. The light fell either upon the smooth, grey back of a pebble, or, the shell of a snail with its brown, circular veins, or falling into a raindrop, it expanded with such intensity of red, blue and yellow the thin walls of water that one expected them to burst and disappear. Instead, the drop was left in a second silver grey once more, and the light now settled upon the flesh of a leaf, revealing the branching thread of fibre beneath the surface, and again it moved on and spread its illumination in the vast green spaces beneath the dome of the heart-shaped and tongue-shaped leaves. Then the breeze stirred rather more briskly overhead and the colour was flashed into the air above, into the eyes of the men and women who walk in Kew Gardens in July.
– Virginia Woolf, “Kew Gardens”

Roasted Beets and Scallion Bulbs

A new series on Dough Also Rises, though honestly a pretty short-lived one. Hélène and I have been experimenting with a garden this year and we’ve had some successes already! In this series, I’ll feature what we harvest and what we cook with it along with a garden scene from literature, because those gardens are enviably lush and beautiful or dramatically fading and overgrown and there’s nothing about our little container gardens that can offer that. Our beet tops are slightly dried out, our carrots are only good for a laugh and not at all for eating, and our radish tops barely broke the surface of the soil. Not exactly the stuff of great literature.

This week, we harvested beets and scallions. We’d let the scallions go a little long in the ground so we could get bigger bulbs. They’re almost like pearl onions in size and somewhere between an onion and a scallion in taste. The beets are a variety that grow long instead of wide so that they’re better suited to containers and small plots (we’re growing ours in a 16″ container). I’ve had an obsession with baby beets this year and plucking them from the garden has been a much better solution than all the rooting through the bottoms of beet bins for the tiny ones like I’ve been doing all season. The basil in this recipe is also from our garden! We’re getting much better about basil growing this year after bothering to learn the first thing about actually doing it (pluck the tops, etc.) so we’ve been using it abundantly! Of course, all this can be replicated with market and grocery store ingredients, but my garden has been a nice new inspiration for me based on what things become ready to eat.

Roasted Beets with Scallion Bulbs and Basil
Baby beets (or larger beets cut in half or quarters)
Scallion bulbs with green parts cut off (or pearl onions with skins removed)
6 large basil leaves

I’ve stopped peeling beets and most other root vegetables because I suddenly realized “why?!” Just make sure to give them a good scrub. Toss the beets in 1 tbsp oil and roast in a covered dish (with a lid, or use foil) at 425˚ for about 40 minutes or until a knife goes through with just a tiny bit of resistance. Cooking time will depend on the size of the beets.

About 10 minutes before the end of cooking time, add scallion bulbs/pearl onions and roast uncovered until bulbs start to soften and brown. Remove from oven, toss with salt and pepper, and top with ribboned basil.

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