Conservatives and beets.

Photography by Matt Hocking

Farmers are a conservative lot. My former boss, employing a great talent for turns of phrase, would say” they are in a race to be first to be third.” What makes them so bearish? The weather.

Let’s compare them to you. It’s sunny and creeping up on 80F today here in DC. You’ve thrown off your parka for shorts and a t-shirt while planning Saturday’s visit to the farm market in search of radishes and asparagus. You will then, of course, head to your neighborhood biergarten (yay Dacha!) for a few brews and the first sunburn of the season.

Photography by Matt Hocking

While good, cold beer will satisfy, the asparagus and radishes will leave you sorely disappointed. Even in the warmest weather, asparagus is just not going to send up tender, sweet shoots for a few more weeks and no farmer will wasting valuable labor and seed only to get hit with a late frost. Unlike you, me and the beers, farmers don’t get to plan their days around the weather they find upon waking in the morning.

Photography by Matt Hocking

What to do? Go right ahead and visit your winter farm market this weekend Do what I’ll be doing April 1st when I return to Eastern Market for my first cooking demonstration of the season: grab some winter vegetables, like delicious beets*, and do your darnedest to make them taste like spring. You’ll give those rightly conservative farmers a few more dollars for the lean weeks of winter and it’ll get you through to those first radishes. And then? Enjoy a beer (or three) for me!

*My husband is having the divorce papers drawn up as I write this.

Orange Glazed Beets

Serves 6

Photography by Matt Hocking

For salad:

  • 3 large beets, peeled and cut into a 1/2” dice
  • 2 blood oranges, finely zested and juiced (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 2 tbs toasted fennel seeds*
  • White pepper
  • 1/2 crumbled Queso Fresco or mild Feta cheese
  • 1 head Butter lettuce

For vinaigrette:

  • 1 shallot, peeled and minced
  • 1/3 cup Sherry vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2/3 cup olive oil – the good stuff!

*Toast fennel seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat. When they become fragrant and just begin to change color immediately remove them from the pan so they do not burn.

Photography by Matt Hocking


  • Fill a saucepan with about 1″ water and 1 tbs orange zest. Place a steamer basket into the pan and add the beets. Steam beets, covered, over high heat until just tender, 15-20 min, adding additional water if needed. Reserve.
  • Make vinaigrette: In medium bowl, whisk together shallot, vinegar and mustard. Season with salt and pepper. While whisking, add oil in a thin stream to form a creamy emulsion.
  • Separate lettuce leaves and place in large bowl. Dress lightly with vinaigrette.
  • Warm 1 tbs olive oil in a 12” skillet over med heat. Add beets and cook 2 min. Whisk together orange juice and honey and add to pan. Increase heat to med-high and cook until liquid reduces to glazes beets. Season with white pepper and salt.
    Toss beets with fennel seeds, cheese and remaining zest, and serve over dressed lettuce leaves.


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