I remember a time when my only association with beets were with those that lived in a can. I didn’t pay attention to them until I was in my mid 30’s and a housemate and I joined a CSA. Most weeks we would receive fresh beets in our delivery. The only way I knew to prepare them then was to roast them. Eventually I began eating them raw, using them in soups, and marinating or steaming them. They also make a wonderful “butter”. Fortunately they grow well year round on Kauai reaching maturity in 60 days. They are incredibly sweet, juicy and full of flavor. Now that I have many uses for them I always have a row growing. Beets are a good source of dietary Fiber, Vitamin C, Magnesium and Potassium, and a very good source of Folate and Manganese. I almost always have a batch of these pickled beets on hand. They are the perfect condiment for salads, fish, meats, and vegetables.
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1 1/2 Cups Balsamic Vinegar
4 cloves Garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon Salt
1/4 Cup Tarragon, chopped
1/4 Cup Marjoram, chopped
Slice beets thin on a mandolin or with a knife. I slice mine as thin as I possibly can if using a knife. Add to a glass container with a nonreactive lid. Add vinegar, garlic, salt, tarragon and marjoram. Refrigerate overnight and then enjoy. The flavor intensifies the longer it marinates. Keeps well for 2 weeks in fridge. Feel free to adjust recipes to your own palette! Don’t be afraid to experiment!
This lovely plant has a sweet, subtle, anise flavor. It matches beets perfectly adding depth and originality. The Mexican Tarragon variety I am growing now is more heat tolerant than the French variety requiring full sun and little water. It bushes out and grows two-three feet high providing an abundant supply. The scent and taste of tarragon is disliked by many garden pests, making it useful for intercropping and as a companion plant, to protect its gardenmates. It is also reputed to be a nurse plant, enhancing growth and flavor of companion crops. The dried plant can be burned as an incense and to repel insects.
Marjoram is a perennial herb native to the Mediterranean, North Africa and Southwest Asia. It was known to the Greeks and Romans as the symbol of happiness. It belongs to the mint family with other more common herbs – basil, mint, oregano and sage. It has a unique aroma and flavor that is floral, spicy, with a hint of citrus and pine.
Marjoram was not something that ever registered in my culinary psyche until I worked in a Kosher Mediterranean and Spanish influenced restaurant in California. Everything had to be extremely fresh, unprocessed and made from scratch. Most herbs were ordered fresh, then cleaned and dried for storage if not used immediately. Marjoram was one of the herbs used regularly and in abundance. I fell in love with it. When I returned to Kauai after working for the restaurant, it was one of the first herbs I planted. This under appreciated herb is now one of my favorites.
I use marjoram in pesto with sage and parsley or chopped fresh and sprinkled over finished dishes. It is compatible with basil, fennel, rosemary, and thyme. Marjoram’s flavor intensifies as it dries however, dried, store bought marjoram does not do it justice! If possible grow some of your own or purchase some fresh at the farmer’s market and dry it yourself. The unique aroma of fresh marjoram will make a believer of anyone.
Marjoram is easy to grow and low maintenance. It requires full sun, well drained soil, and a balanced compost. It can be started from seed in cell trays and then transplanted or rooted from cuttings. I trim the tops and sides every few days which encourages regrowth for an abundant supply. If I don’t use it fresh I dry and store it. I bought both my tarragon and marjoram starts from Robin, owner of Heaven on Earth Organics, at the Kilauea Farmer’s Market Saturday from 9am to 1pm. Robin is a seed and start guru. If I only need one of a certain plant I usually buy it from her. Most other items I grow from seed. Robin is extremely knowledgeable about both farming and cooking. A real gift to gardeners and Kauai! She also sells her starts at Hoku Whole Foods in Kapa’a.