Baby Beets - Balsamic Glazed Tops and Bottoms


The standard line for growing beets on a small farm is this: plant dense, thin for greens, harvest  young for baby beets then harvest old for storage. One planting, three crops, three meals, it sounds perfect. And in practice it’s pretty good. It’s a scheme that’s served us well for eons, but it’s not perfect. The problem is the storage piece at the end.  Beets are best when their small. Golf ball size is ideal. At this size they’re sweet and tender. They pickle well, clean up well and  you don’t have to cook them for hours. But as they age, they get woody and woodier.  Around baseball size their quality really starts to decline. They get bland, are no longer much good served raw and really should be peeled before cooking.


(A quick observation: beet seeds might be the coolest things in the garden. They’re a bone yard. They’re Kuiper Belt refuges. They’re rubble in the wasteland. They’re fantastic!)

Unfortunately, large beets are very common, especially at big grocery stores. Most grocers buy produce from big farms and most big farms grow their beets big. They want them large because they last longer. Big beets can sit in boxes, on trucks and on grocery shelfs much longer than small, tasty ones can. It’s about serving a distant retail customer and it’s a crying shame. Baby beets are so much better.


It’s common to split the poor beet into parts, roots and greens portioned up, forever separate and unreconciled. It’s even more common for people to compost the tops, cooking only the beet root. This too is unfortunate. To me, beets are best served as a unit with the root and greens on the same plate. I think the slight bitter of the greens balances out and is great complement to the sweet root.

I love this balsamic beet recipe. The greens cook over the roots, just like they grew in the garden. I serve it chilled as a light, summer side or as a small plate with wine on the patio.


Balsamic Glazed Baby Beets – Roots and Greens

Greens over roots, just like they grew


  • 10-14 Baby beets with greens attached
  • 1 small white onion
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 sprigs fresh tarragon or thyme
  • salt
  • pepper


Rinse and scrub the beets under cold water. Remove the greens, cut the beets to bite size and corsley chop the greens. Julienee the onion into 1/4″ pieces. Using a pan with a lid, arrange the beets and onion into a single flat layer. Sprinkle EVO and balsamic on top. Add herb sprigs, a pinch of salt and enough water to cover. Bring pot to a boil, then add the lid and reduce to a simmer. Cook the beets for 15-20 minutes or until they are right on the verge of being properly tender. Add the greens to the pan, cover and cook for three more minutes. Fold everything together, reduce the liquid to a glaze (it should evenly coat the back of a spoon) and season to taste.

Cooking time (duration): 40

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