1kg small 'Detroit Dark Red' and 'Burpees Golden' beetroots, peeled
1 red onion
1 tbsp honey
2tbsp unfiltered olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
250g precooked beluga lentils
1 handful beet leaves, finely shredded
1 orange - juice and rind
100ml crème fraîche
a few sprigs of mint and dill
- salt & pepper
Put off by beetroot’s earthy, soil-like flavour?
Well, take it from an ex-beetaphobe like me, beets and muddy flavour need not go hand in hand. The roots derive their dusty flavour from a substance called geosmin, which is the self-same chemical released into the air by soil after a rainstorm. To me, it’s an instant flashback to being forced to play rugby at school in Singapore, trudging through mud in 35°C (95°F) heat. There are drawbacks to being the biggest kid in school. Fortunately, the amount of geosmin that beetroot create is genetically determined, and scientists at Washington State University have been able to rank varieties along a sort of Richter scale of earthiness. With some containing three times more geosmin than others, you can pick a variety to suit your personal taste. Six times more geosmin is concentrated in the skins. Simply peeling beetroot will make them taste less earthy.
Over the last few years ethnobotanist James Wong’s scientific and labour-saving approach to edible gardening has garnered critical acclaim, landing him his own BBC series Grow Your Own Drugs and publishing contracts for several books. Here we showcase James’ flair for combining the unusual with three of our favourite recipes with a difference from the book...
RHS Grow For Flavour by James Wong is published by Mitchell Beazley and is available, for £20, from www.octopusbooks.co.uk
Photographs: Jason Ingram
Recipes: James Wong
Recipes Type: Starters