Pickled beets have always been one of my favorite things. My mom used to buy the little canned round ones, pour them and their juice into a container, add vinegar and sugar, toss in a few hard-boiled eggs and let them sit in the refrigerator for a few days. Then we'd have us a beet and egg fest.
I would have been perfectly content to eat those pickled canned beets the rest of my life and then Mom went and grew some in her garden and pickled those. Yum-meeeee! They were so good that I was sure there was never any way that I could be talented enough to grow my own and pickle them like she did. After all, my mom is a gourmet cook. Really. She makes Beef Wellington and stuff like that.
But last year, I thought I'd give it a try. I bought some seeds at Kitchen Garden Seeds - 'Bull's Blood' - and planted them in the neighbor's garden plot. That's right, the neighbor's. You see, I didn't plan things very well last year and I ran out of room in our own garden, so I walked over to Tom's house and made him an offer.
"Hey, Tom. If we work up your garden and leave room enough for your tomato plants (that was all he usually planted), could we plant some things there? We could share the harvest, too." Tom enthusiastically said, "Go for it. That garden will never look so good."
I think Tom had visions of a meticulously tended plot of lush, leafy green vegetables, but I'm sorry to say that it was just too easy to forget about them over there and the weeds soon took over. We weren't able to do any watering either, nor had the soil been amended so it was pretty much hard clay. Still, we managed to have a small beet crop, as well as some melons and cherry tomatoes.
Mom, your pickled beet secret is out. While I still think you're the best cook I know, I also now know that raising and pickling beets is one of the easiest gardening exercises there is. Actually, I think you told me that, when I asked you if it was difficult, but they tasted so good I didn't believe you.
I think I got about five quarts of pickled beets from last year's crop. Romie and I both love them, so they didn't last too long. This year, we planted them in our own garden and we'll have another yummy beet session soon.
When I planted them, I tried to space the seeds so that I wouldn't need to thin them. I didn't thin them last year, which is why the majority of them didn't grow to be all that large. It's just so hard for me to pull out a perfectly live plant and discard it, even for the good of the ones that are left. Even with spacing the seeds, I need to do the same this year, and I'm having the same darn problem. It just goes against everything I have, to thin anything. But I eventually learned to pinch back the chrysanthemums, so someday I'll master the art of thinning, too.
I pulled a couple of beets a few days ago and several more yesterday. Today I'm going to pickle these, because my mouth is already watering, just thinking about how good they're going to taste.