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Seasons: red greens

Susan Jung

 

When it comes to beets, most people think of eating only the brightly coloured root vegetable, even though the tops are edible as well. The leaves and stems - called beet greens (although the stems are usually red, as are the veins in the leaves) - can be eaten raw or cooked. If you buy beetroot with the stems and leaves still attached, cut them off and use them as soon as possible, because they're much more fragile than the sturdy root, which can be wrapped in a plastic bag and refrigerated for several days. Smaller beet greens, which are tender and delicate, are often found in bags of mixed salads.

Beet greens can be used as you would spinach, although the sturdier stems should be cooked for a little longer than the more fragile leaves. They're delicious in a wilted beet green salad. Cut strips of bacon into 5mm-wide pieces and put them in an unoiled skillet set over a medium flame. Cook, stirring often, until the bacon pieces are crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan and drain it on paper towels. Pour off all but about 45ml of bacon fat from the skillet. Chop the beet stems into 3cm pieces and sauté them in the bacon fat until they start to soften, then add the beet leaves and cook briefly, just to wilt them. Stir in some red wine vinegar and black pepper, mix briefly, then remove from the heat. Add the bacon pieces and some toasted pine nuts and stir to combine. Divide the ingredients between plates and top each portion with a poached egg before serving.

 

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