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Shiraz beets are a large variety, averaging 7-8 centimeters in diameter, and have a uniform, globular shape that tapers to a single taproot. The dark purple skin is smooth, even, and firm, connecting into tall, burgundy, crisp stems with green, broad leaves. Underneath the skin, the flesh is dense, crunchy, aqueous, and a vibrant dark purple. When cooked, Shiraz beets develop a tender, soft consistency with sweet, herbaceous, and earthy flavors. Shiraz beets also grow substantial beet tops, averaging 25-30 centimeters in height, which are edible greens that offer a mild green flavor.
Shiraz beets are available year-round, with a peak season in the late summer through winter.
Shiraz beets, botanically classified as Beta vulgaris, are edible, underground roots that form tall, leafy green stalks and are members of the Amaranthaceae family. Considered a hybrid variety created for its resistance to disease, uniform shape, and sweet flavor, Shiraz beets are derived from different beet heirlooms and are a fast-growing variety developed to be a well-rounded table beet. Shiraz beets are commercially produced and are also a favorite variety to grow in home gardens. These roots can be used as a substitute for common red beets in culinary applications and provide a sweeter flavor than common red beet varieties.
Shiraz beets are high in vitamin C, fiber, potassium, and contain traces of magnesium and manganese. They also contain betalains, which are pigments that give the root its dark hue, and these pigments are antioxidants believed to help remove toxins and cleanse the body.
Shiraz beets can be consumed in both raw or cooked applications such as roasting, boiling, steaming, and canning. When utilized raw, the roots can be shredded and tossed into green salads, juiced as a healthy cleansing beverage, or blended into smoothies. When cooked, the beets develop a soft and tender texture and can be diced and layered over a crostini for a bite-sized appetizer, sandwiched into fresh spring rolls, cooked into a soup, or blended into hummus. In addition to the roots, the leaves are edible and can be lightly sautéed as a mildly bitter side dish. Shiraz beets pair well with creamy cheeses such as feta, gorgonzola, brie, and goat, nuts such as walnuts and pistachios, greens such as spinach and arugula, fruits such as pears, blood oranges, and blueberries, and flavorings such as balsamic reductions, lemon juice, and olive oil. The roots will keep 2-3 weeks with the leaves removed and stored in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. With the leaves still attached, they will keep up to one week. The green leaves will only keep 1-2 days once removed from the roots and stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Shiraz beets are an example of hybrid varieties that are created to meet changing market demand in the United States. In an effort to create a more disease-resistant crop, Shiraz beets display some of the strongest traits of hybrid table beets and are aesthetically pleasing to be more marketable for consumer purchase. They have also seen an increase in popularity in the fitness movement of the United States as more dessert recipes are using red beets as a natural dye and ingredient substitute to create clean, healthy recipes. Shiraz beets are popularly used as a natural food coloring in desserts such as chocolate pudding, donuts, cakes, cheesecakes, and brownies.
Shiraz beets were created in the United States in the early 2000s from a collaboration between the Organic Seed Alliance and scientists Dr. John Navazio and Steve Peters. This variety was developed in an effort to create a better table beet for organic cultivation. Shiraz beets took about five years of breeding before they were released, and today the roots can be found at farmers markets and specialty grocers across the United States. They are also available through online seed catalogs for home gardeners worldwide.
Recipes that include Shiraz Beets. One is easiest, three is harder.
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