Plan Beta

by forumholitorium

I have a confession to make: I have temporarily abandoned the garden. I feel incredibly guilty, especially when TC tells me that the rue wants to know where I’ve been. Things are growing; TC has brought back offerings of tomatoes, raspberries, and apples. There are still 4 fennel bulbs to eat, the leeks are coming along, the mint is begging to be picked and dried. But I feel overwhelmed whenever I think of the garden, a place where I no longer feel safe.

To explain: first, the loss of our peaches. They were nearly ripe the last time I was there, probably ten days ago, and we looked forward to savoring them in a way we couldn’t last year because we left on vacation precisely when the peaches became ripe. TC came back from the garden last Friday and said they had vanished. Nary a trace to be found underneath. Someone had taken them. He presented me with the 10 remaining. We should have had at least seven times that amount. A neighbor’s tree had also been picked clean.

This was just the latest in a series of attacks on our fruit. We lost most of our raspberries this year because the head of the garden association mistakenly told one of our neighbors that our red raspberry bushes belonged to his plot. One day we found to our astonishment that he had cut them all down. Thankfully they are a wild and ragged bunch that have since grown back, but there went the first raspberry harvest. In March we found out that our walnut tree was slated to be cut down because our neighbors (on the side opposite the raspberry bushes) didn’t want it there. It was mistakenly identified as being on their plot. Over the course of a nerve-wracking afternoon, we managed to save our tree.

Though I love the idea of growing my own and the act of tending the garden, I am retreating. What might happen next? I don’t feel able to protect the plants up there. They are too far away. Perhaps my expectations are too high for the garden, or maybe I have spread myself too thin. For now, TC is caring for them, which he enjoys doing. As for me, I have started lavishing the balcony plants with attention, to which they are responding in kind. I am reimagining the layout of the balcony and want to set up a new planter that will replace many of the motley crew of small pots that we regularly trip over.

Even though we buy most of our vegetables at the market, I had hoped that we would have enough growing in the garden to stop buying veggies for the month of August. No way. Unrealistic. A shattered dream. The silver lining is once I admitted this to myself, I felt OK with the idea of buying food from a kind of modified CSA. The Gemüsewerkstatt (hereafter Vegetable Workshop) allows you to order food online by Wednesday at noon and pick it up Friday afternoon. Everything is organic and produced roughly within an hour’s drive from my home. You select what you want à l carte, which means I won’t have to process green cabbage, celery root, or green beans, three examples of veggies currently in season that I don’t enjoy eating. Besides fruits and veggies, they also offer cow’s milk products, eggs, cereals, vinegars, oils – just about everything we buy that is produced locally except sheep and goat milk products. After our favorite sheep and goat farmer disappears for the winter in late October, this will also save us a trip into town Saturday morning, when we normally go to the market for our once-a-week shopping run. Besides the potential for saving fuel, buying groceries this way also means we don’t have to leave home when it’s cold outside.

Last week was our trial run of the Vegetable Workshop. A hands down success! Part of our first order were two huge beets. Like cabbage, beets were initially a leafy green plant growing wild by the sea (this ancestor, the sea beet or Beta vulgaris. var. maritimais still up to the same tricks today). Chard came about from the domestication of the sea beet and is still a leafy vegetable, but at some point beets parted company with chard and were selected for their sweet roots. It was the Romans who brought the cultivated beta north of the Alps, but the Celts and Germanic peoples were more interested in their turnips. Beets are thought to purify the blood and aid the liver. Containing betalain, an antioxidant, they are an excellent source of folic acid.

Betalicious Betalain Pie

This recipe is my modification of a recipe at the Vegetable Workshop website.

700 g / 1 1/2 lb. cooked beets, cubed or diced

2 shallots, minced

1 Tbs olive oil

4 eggs, beaten

200 g sour cream

100 ml / 1/2 cup water

100 g / 3 1/2 ounces semolina

nutmeg, salt, pepper to taste

Sauté the shallots in the olive oil until brown. Add the beets and sauté for 5-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the eggs, sour cream, and water together. Add the semolina. Season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper.

Spread the shallot and beet mixture across the pie. Pour the egg and semolina batter over it.

Bake 30 minutes at 180° C/350° F.

Serve with a yogurt-chive dip. Simply add chopped chives to the yogurt.

So, dear reader, how do you enjoy preparing and eating beets?