It’s interesting to note the difference between the produce in Italy (where I live most of the time) and that of Paros. For example, there’s alot of fennel blub and rocket in Italy that here is difficult to find– not that I’m looking for it as I prefer to eat only what’s local. Whereas in Greece, there’s a use of okra and beets not common in Italy.
Beets are so beautiful to look at. I would love to put them in a painting—there’s something really sensual about the red veins in the green leaves. So, attracted to their aesthetics, I bought some today just to lay them on the kitchen counter to stare at for awhile. But, because they are perishable, at a certain point I decided to stop looking and to start cooking.
“Pantzaria Salata” (παντζάρι σαλάτα) is a salad made with cold beets. It is basically boiled beets seasoned with garlic, vinegar, olive oil and salt but it is this simplicity that makes pantzaria salata amazingly flavourful.
There is another variation where the beetroot is cooked then mashed in with yogurt and walnuts. Not being Greek and not knowing how to follow recipes, I just dump the above ingredients into the blender along with garlic and olive oil to make a kind of dip.
As for the beet greens, I generally cook them apart—just sauté them in olive oil along with garlic and peperoncino. Sometimes I even add pistachios since they are a good source of protein and so easy to find here.
Above, my lunch: beet greens, stuffed zucchini and apricots. The zucchini, covered with a lemon sauce that had just a hint of tartness perfect for the groundmeat, was made by my neighbor, Angeliki, who periodically brings me the most incredible food. She is a wonderful cook, her moussaka and millefoglie are unsurpassable! (Did you notice how big that zucchini is?)
The beets’ cooking water had turned red and, not wanting to waste it, I decided to tinge an old blouse. So I stuff the blouse into the pot and left it there while I went to the beach.
Apparently, you can even use beet juice to dye your hair. Beets along with red onions, red cabbage and pomegranates are great natural dyes for fabrics if you like pink and red. There are many ways to dye clothes using natural methods.
A couple of years ago while I was in London for the Design Festival and hitting the bookshops, I came across a book by India Flint (Eco Colour: Botanical Dyes for Beautiful Textiles). Having linked to her blog in the past, I took a look at it and of course had to buy it. She does something magical with plants, water and cloth that for some reason reminds me of kamasutra…the blending of separate entities to create a single experience.
India Flint: cloth and color
India Flint’s garments for wanderers under the label ‘prophet of bloom‘
I use a dehydrator for much of my home grown food and just to experiment with flavour. Beetroot marinated like yours can be sliced up thinly and then dried. It goes leathery and chewy and tastes sensational with prosciutto and figs and goat cheese and green peppercorn. Currently experimenting with quince puree and chilli also dried in the dehydrator. Melbourne is so multi cultural that we are exposed to everybody’s favourite foods and have no allegiance to any. I love your respect for food and thanks for the introduction to India Flint. My one and only kalamata olive was in my pocket and squashed slightly and I had been considering dyeing something with the juice. Next year maybe.
Jo, how much food do you grow? You must have alot of outdoor space. And when you dehydrate the beet, is it cooked and marinated or just marinated? Sounds incredibly good. Do you know anything about solar dehydrating? There is so much sun here that I would like to try. Thanks for the great info!
A normal suburban block in Melbourne 10 km out of the central business area is about 15m wide and anywhere between 30 and 50 metres long. We are in an older suburb settled after WW2 and so have a 50 m block. Many of the blocks around us are turning into high rise but I figure my place keeps the surrounds cooler and provides habitat for critters. I plant anything edible that will grow sometimes tucked among decorative plants and I am always experimenting. Some things work well one year and not the next. I saved the remnants of the 60 year old garden, a fig, 2 oranges and planted things like artichokes rhubarb and asparagus that will live for years as well as 2 Indian guavas, a quince, passionfruit, grape, blood orange and friends have given me banana plants. Mint grows along the gravel in the otherwise unusable shade at the edge of the house. Small straight vegetables on the other side of the driveway like leeks spring onions, parsley, coriander,garlic happily grow in a mulch of gravel. No one can see them from the street which is a bit uppity. I have raised vegetable boxes to control the weeds but all around the base I have flowering allysum for the bees as well as some of my mothers old fashioned plants like carnations and paeonies, poppies and ranunculas. They sort of do what they like.A non invasive raspberry, a lemon tree, lime, blueberries, strawberries. I have no lawn just plastic grass on an upstairs deck and at the back I have another deck which is more sheltered and grows a few more tropical experiments. We have a 10000litre water tank which will soon be hidden by something else that is edible. I don’t follow any rules except to compost and mulch including mulching all our office paper from the shredder and I use herbs like comfrey to nurse sick plants back to health. A good talking to and gentle touch to say hello helps them all too and thanking them for donating their leaves and fruits. I use an electric dehydrator because we also have solar panels to offset the use of the power but I have plans somewhere for a black box dehydrator which just uses old fried racks or cardboard boxes with flywire bases. As long as you can keep the ants out by standing legs of box in dishes of water and just have a flywire front on it to keep other bugs out you could dry things in a day or two. Threading sliced things together inside legs of pantyhose might also work. Oh my dog I have almost written a blog post!
Lovely Lady, you have written a post! And a very good one at that! In fact, I would like for you to do a guest post for me re: your garden actvities. How long did it take for you to learn all this? And instead of pantyhose, would gauze work, too? Wow, I need to sit down with a cup of coffee and re-read your comment–so much info! mille grazie