I didn’t learn to like beets until I moved north. To be fair, I’d only ever had them out of a can, or boiled, or both. But finally a couple of more experienced cooks roasted beets in my vicinity, and I realized that they are in fact delicious and versatile.
Around that same time, I learned that you can eat beet leaves. Even so, it never occurred to me to eat beet stems until my CSA farmer sent us a recipe for them. Beet stems are a little sweet, like the root, but with less of that earthy beet flavor. They are very useful for filling out a dish that already has a couple of chopped vegetables – risotto, bean salad, random veggie mishmash – and I love the idea of using almost every part of a vegetable.
Beet stems are very fibrous, so they need to be softened with cooking – I find that roasting them with beet wedges or tossing them in a very hot skillet for a few minutes does the trick. Sometimes, as I chop them into inch-long pieces, I pull away some of the outer fibers; some stems might just be too woody to eat, and can go in with the stock veggies.
For lunch today I coated the stems, a sliced garlic clove, and some thinly sliced zucchini in a smidge of oil and balsamic, then sauteed them until the zucchini began to get translucent. I tossed some white beans, basil, and shredded carrot in the remainder of the oil and vinegar and added those to the pan. It was delicious eaten hot – savory and a little sweet – but you could probably also eat this cool, in a pasta salad or on top of greens.