mmmm… beet tops!

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recipe: Beet Tops with Dill and Mustard Seeds

flickr photo 'A ride in the Park': Patio3900 Look! We’re famous!! We just received email alerting us to this “Photo of the Day: A Ride in the Park (30 March 2008)” posted in Biking Toronto.

Yesterday, while T was fighting to true his rear wheel that had been attacked by one of the many (too many) potholes on our decaying roads, I bicycled around from vegetable store to vegetable store in search of beets with decent looking leaves. Because I really really wanted beet tops to go with our dinner. But T is never crazy about it when I suggest that we have beet tops so I got plenty of green beans as well.

I do love beet tops! I cannot believe that I am the same person who used to choke back tears as I gagged and gasped my way through the tiniest portion of beet tops congealing on my plate when I was little. Silly me. Now, I buy beets just so that I can have beet tops.

And so, last night, we had the best dinner. I can’t remember when we’ve had anything equalling it. (Oh wait, I can. The night before we had phenomenal enchilasagne and the night before that we had fabulous red pepper and sausage pasta and the night before that, we…) But you know what I mean.

We decided to have a variation of Cherry’s Clay Pot Chicken – but this time, after covering the skin with lots of dried thyme and some salt and pepper, rested a whole chicken on a bed of garlic cloves. You wouldn’t believe the chicken. The breast meat, that was far away from the garlic, was moist and tender and was permeated (in a good way) with the garlic flavour.

We served it with rice, the most amazing juices that were rendered, green beans, the garlic that had become soft and sweet. And beet tops… stellar beet tops.

I suspected T might like them so I made enough for both of us. And T deigned to have some. And loved them. And said we could have them any time. He made my day.

Here’s how I made the beet tops:

Beet Tops
variation of Beets and Turnip with Fennel and Mustard Seeds

  • olive oil
  • brown mustard seeds
  • dill seeds
  • chili flakes
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • beet tops
  • cider vinegar
  • chicken stock powder
  • seasalt and pepper
  • garam masala


  • Heat oil in a cast iron frying pan. Crush the dill seeds with the flat of the knife and add them with the mustard seeds to the oil. Fry for a short time until the mustard seeds began to pop. Add sliced onions and cook on low heat until caramelized.
  • Add the washed beet leaves (cut any stems into bitesize pieces or save them for another day) and toss to cover with oil. Put a lid on the pan and allow the leaves to steam for about 4 minutes until the stems are fork tender.
  • Put some cider vinegar (I used a couple of tablespoons for one bunch of beet tops) into a small bowl. Stir in a little chicken stock powder (maybe half a teaspoon?) and add to the pan. The vinegar helps to hold the colour of the beets.
  • Add pepper and garam masala (maybe a quarter of a teaspooon) just before serving.

Serve immediately and convert everyone into beet top lovers.

There were two more thrilling aspects to the dinner: condiments. T tried to reproduce my favourite peanut chili sauce and his favourite fermented black bean chili sauce. They’re Chinese – we have no idea what they’re called in English – can’t read the writing. The results of the experiment weren’t exactly the same as the commercial sauces but they were completely and entirely delicious.

Did we take photos? Before dinner, we were too dizzy from the wondrous aromas. During dinner, we were too busy tucking in. And after, well, there was nothing left but a ravaged carcass. (It’s in the stock pot now for lentil soup tonight.)

I did manage to get a shot of the chili sauces though… I’ll post them as soon as I find out what T did. Remind me.

(click on image for larger view)

flickr photo 'A ride in the Park' Patio3900 We just received email alerting us to this “Photo of the Day: A Ride in the Park (30 March 2008)” posted in Biking Toronto (

Hey!!! I recognize those people! Why, it’s like looking in a mirror….

We have no idea who Joe or “Patio3900” is. Whoever the photographer is took it on 14 January. I see by looking at Environment Canada archives, it was 2C. Clearly we are completely out of our minds.

Or are we? I think, judging from when and where the photo was taken, that we were on our way to “Pasquale Brothers” again to get more roccolo and parmesan cheeses. And to see what might be on the bottom shelf.


This entry was posted in food & drink, posts with recipes, starter, vegetables on by .

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7 responses to “mmmm… beet tops!

  1. a sister in the west

    Hey, the bike picture is too cool! And yes, I do recognize my sister’s back — it’s them for sure! Did you find anything special at Pasquale Bros?

  2. Jeanne

    Beet tops?? Huh? I take it this is the leafy green bit that’s usually trimmed off before the beets hit the shelves? Interesting – never thought of eating them! Your chicken sounds totally divine too and woo hoo, fame at last with the bike pics! Expect celebrity stalkers next ;-)

  3. bing

    I too loathed beet tops as a child, but now they’re among my favourite greens.

    Aside from the excellent beety flavour, I like them because they hardly require any cooking, so there’s very little risk of leaving them in the pan “for just a sec” and getting them overcooked.

    Mmm, greens.

  4. ejm Post author

    Isn’t it strange how we love what was once so loathesome, bing? I wonder if it’s the strong taste of beets that put us off when we were children. (Eeek, are our taste buds dying?)

    That’s the part, Jeanne. It’s such a shame when the beets are trimmed. The tops are the best part!

    Do give this a try soon, Susan. I’ll be really interested to hear what you think.

    Yes, I think the bike picture is really cool too, western sister. But it does give me pause, knowing that someone may be snapping my picture and posting it for just anyone to see. It means I’ll have to make sure my nails are clean and I’m not wearing rags… ;-)

  5. Ralph C.

    beet tops…… how good…. i remember my dad planted beet top seeds …just the tops. Have you heard of that before. I haven’t seen them since. I hope I have my info right. I’m sure he got tops only.
    Also….my wife tells me to read the label on the beets in the jars that you buy in the store….NO FOOD VALUE AT ALL. I can’t believe it. As kids, we were always told to eat our beets ..that they were so good for you.
    Ralph Clark

  6. ejm Post author

    I can’t say I’ve ever heard of beet tops only, Ralph. But I guess it’s possible that someone might have hybridized a beet to ensure that it would grow mostly greens and not much root. (Or might he have been growing red chard?)

    Yesterday, I looked at some jars of pickled beets at the supermarket and was really surprised! I guess that the pickling process removes the nutrients! However, after googling, I came across two different labels for pickled beets. It appears that it depends on who is doing the pickling (or labelling??):

    Nutrition Facts for D M Pickled Beets
    – Nutrition Information for: Pickled Beets (nutritionpedia[dot]com/disp.php?id=172390)

    I somehow suspect that far less of the nutrition is lost in home processing small batches though. At least that’s what I want to believe.

    Thanks for the heads up!


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