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Fresh at Farmers Markets This Week

beets

Beets can usually be found at farmers tailgate markets year-round, especially with farmers employing cold frames or high tunnels to extend their season through the winter. So the spring beet crop often arrives without much fanfare. But these early-season beets are worth getting excited about.  

Spring beets come in a striking array of colors, including yellow gold, burgundy red, fuchsia pink, and even the candy cane stripes of the chioggia variety. They tend to be small, which makes them quicker and easier to prepare. You can eat both the root and the greens, making them a two-for-one deal. And, perhaps their biggest selling point, spring beets are sweeter and a little less earthy than their later-season counterparts. If you’re trying to win over beet converts, now is the time. Many farms will have beets available in the coming weeks, but so far we’ve spotted them from Olivette Farm at ASAP Farmers Market, Encompass Farm at East Asheville Tailgate Market, and Gaining Ground Farm at North Asheville and River Arts District markets. 

For some of us, the barrier to cooking beets on a regular basis is the mess. If you can’t bear pink-stained hands and cutting board, opt for yellow or chioggia types. (But the stains do wear off pretty quickly, and you can boost your scrubbing power with a bit of salt and lemon.) You can peel raw beets with a vegetable peeler, but they tend to be easier to handle after cooking, when the skins will slip off easily by rubbing with a paper towel.

Beets can be boiled or steamed, but our favorite cooking method is roasting whole in foil packets. Remove the greens from the beets to prepare separately (they cook up like swiss chard or spinach). Rinse and scrub the beets to remove any dirt. Dry them, rub with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then wrap them in foil packets. With larger beets, you can wrap individually, but small spring beets are fine in groups of three to five. Roast in a 400-degree oven until tender, about 40 minutes. Let them cool slightly before peeling.

From here, the possibilities are nearly endless. Enjoy roasted beets in spring salads or grain bowls with local cheese and lettuce. Stack them in sandwiches with other market veggies and greens like pea shoots, shredded carrots, and sliced cucumbers, or sub them for tomatoes in a BLT. Mash them up and add them to risotto, gnocchi, or veggie burgers. Puree them into dips like hummus or tzatziki. Pickle them, either on their own or with hard-boiled eggs.

In addition to beets, markets now have asparagus, spring onions and leeks, snow and snap peas, radishes, turnips, strawberries, mushrooms, and much more. Markets also offer an abundance of farm-fresh eggs, meats, fish, bread, cheese, pastries, fermented products, drinks, and prepared foods. There are more than 100 farmers tailgate markets throughout the Appalachian Grown region. Find them, as well as farms and other local food businesses, in ASAP’s online Local Food Guide.

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