If you asked me a few years back what my least favorite vegetable was, I would have told you that it was the beet. I grew up with nightmares about the slimy red disks that came in a can from the grocery store that made everything that touched it on the plate red and my stomach contract with agony. I honestly believed that when I was given beets to eat, I was being punished for something I must have done wrong. Lucky for me, this only happened a few times that I can remember, but the memory of the slimy canned beet has stuck in my memory as the single most revolting and frightening food I’ve ever had, thus giving beets the reputation, at least with me, that they are only good as a punishment until well into adulthood.
Michelle has always known what’s good for me. If I had to give you a top ten list of reasons why I love her, that would easily make the list. I almost doubted that for a minute a few years back, though. While at a farmers market, she bought beets. To be honest, I had never seen a beet. As far as I knew, they came wrapped in an aluminum can and were only served to bad kids. These, though, were not in a can. They were round, bulbous, with long lush greens like a tail of a comet. Though I was rather intrigued by these things, I was still dead set against trying them in any way. I’d done nothing wrong, in fact I’ve been quite good and was in no was deserving of the punishment I knew was coming for reasons unknown. Michelle knew that I hated beets. She knew just the name alone would make me wince in pain and terror, but she, on that late-summer day, had convinced me that I should just give them a try. Not from a can, not as a punishment, but from the grill, and in the spirit of new experiences.
They were cut into eighths and with a little olive oil and some seasoning, wrapped in a sheet of aluminum foil and set on the grill. I set them away from everything else that was on it, as I didn’t want to ruin a perfectly good hamburger because Michelle had the bright idea to force feed me beets! After about 30 minutes on the grill, we took the beets off the grill. Don’t worry, the hamburger was eaten less than 3 minutes from being set on the grill. The redder, the better. Anyway, I stuck my fork into one of the well cooked and now softened mildly charred beets, put all my fears aside and gave it a try.
I wanted to hate that beet. I really did. I wanted to be so revolted that I would spit it out of my mouth, flip over the grill in some sort of beet-driven rage and storm off to cleanse my pallet with something less terrible and revolting, like NyQuil, but it never happened. It was one of the most amazing food experiences of my life. What I thought would taste a little like charred human flesh, ended up being a mildly sweet, robust, amazing, thing that I wanted more of. From that point, beets had become my crack. From that point, I found myself chasing that same beet high that I got the first time, but unlike any drug, I would find that same high every time I ate fresh beets.
Beets are now a staple in our garden. I wouldn’t even consider a garden without at least two or three varieties of these tasty morsels of rooty perfection. More than anything, I was pleased to discover the ease of growing beets in just about any environment. We have grown them in steady rainfall, in drought, in well-kept gardens, and among a virtual jungle of weeds. One thing we’ve discovered is that there is nothing that will keep a beet down. Just plant the seed and walk away. They can take care of themselves from there.
Well, one thing is for sure, Michelle knows what’s good for me…