“Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country.” William Jennings Bryan

Thursday, January 19, 2012

January 19, 2012

Probably not the biggest story of the year….but yesterday I ate a beet. Not the whole thing, but a bite of one that I pulled from the hoop house bed. This would be no big deal, and it most likely still wouldn’t be, except that I haven’t been able to look at a beet, let alone touch one, since kindergarten. And for those persons who know my age, that was a very, very long time ago.

Beets are one of those “bad memory” foods! I think that everyone has one. Some people can’t touch liver. Some people cant touch peas…

My bad food memory is of an ugly, runny red pile of chopped, cubed pickled beets on the side of my kindergarten lunch plate. I took one bite and reacted with a sudden spit that lobbed over the table and hit the wall on the other side. Even so, a kind and matronly lunch aide who whole heartedly believed in “waste not” stood over me and helped me force down that whole pile. I didn’t want help. I wanted to run away.

The taste and fear of that lunch time still haunts me. It’s ingrained in me. It’s a bad movie re running in my brain.

Last year Karen asked that I grow beets. Just the thought of a beet in the garden started my stomach to quiver, but I relented, saying that I would plant them, but the rest was up to her. I wouldn’t pull them and I wouldn’t eat them. I didn’t even want to smell them!

Turns out that the beets were the hit of last year’s CSA. I didn’t understand it – how could  they be so popular? Couldn’t figure how anyone could get excited over something so red and vile. But people were excited, and people asked for more. So I kept planting. And in the fall, I planted some in the hoop house.

These in the hoop house didn’t grow very big. The soil I think got too cool too soon. But I didn’t want to waste them (remember what the lunch aide taught me?)Every so often I pulled one or two and gave them to Snoopie. She wasn’t thrilled with them, but when she realized that nothing better was to come, she reluctantly nibbled at them. Same with the chickens. They pecked at the red bulb, but more out of curiosity than with relish. I got to thinking that if they did go crazy for them, I could end up with red yolked eggs, and that probably wouldn’t be too good. So maybe it was a good thing that they didn’t like them. Some blessings come as failures.

After Snoopie and the chickens there was only one other animal I had left to try feeding the remaining beets to -  the hippos.

We had been feeding Zippy dried beet pulp for months to put some more weight on him, so it seemed natural to offer him a fresh beet. I was cleaning the stalls when Zip came in from the front pasture to see what I was up to. He looked at me and gave me a throaty snicker. (I have no idea why this sound is called a snicker because it’s more of a growling sound.) And I thought, “what the hell, lets give it a try…”

So I walked to the hoop house and lifted two small beets from the raised bed inside. I scraped off the skin with my pocket knife, much like peeling a carrot, and cut off the roots and then the leaves. Red water seeped from the cuts onto my hands. I walked back to the stable and offered the first beet to Zips. He sniffed it a bit. He backed up to get a better look at what was in my hand and what it was that had that smell. He sniffed it again, and gently picked it off my hand with his teeth. And then he crunched it in his back teeth and suddenly his eyes lit up and he looked to my hand to see if another was coming! He began to shuffle his feet in anticipation that another might appear.

And then it came over me like an epiphany. I gotta see what’s so good about these things, and I took a small bite of the second beet. Not a big bite, but just enough to take off a shred. It tasted pretty much like a carrot – a bit crunchy and a bit sweet which turned slightly bitter as I chewed. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t enough to convince me that I had to have any more. But it was a start. I gave the rest to Zip, and realized that I had just eaten a beet...

And then I realized that it took a horse to get me to try a beet after all these years…

I guess the lunch lady would have been proud of me.  But then again, maybe not.

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