As a child of the Canadian prairies, vegetable appreciation has always been part of my life. I remember my grandmother serving up fresh cut veggies from the farm with no dip or sauce in sight… just a little salt and pepper to bring out the naturally delicious flavors. I was also mesmerized by her root cellar, where she kept jars of homemade pickles of all kinds, including beets. I loved their vibrant color and sweetness and when I wasn’t eating them pickled, I often enjoyed them boiled and sliced as a side dish.
Not just captivating to the eyes and taste buds, beets (and their green tops) are high in many vitamins and minerals, including potassium, magnesium, fiber, phosphorus, iron, folic acid and vitamins A, B and C. They support healthy blood and a healthy liver, and may also help prevent cancer.
Beets are also a common ingredient in a popular Ukranian soup called borscht. The Canadian prairies are home to a large number of people of Ukrainian descent (in fact, Canada has the world’s largest Ukrainian population after the Ukraine and Russia). Because of this, many of my friends have a ‘baba’ (or ‘grandmother’ in endearing Ukrainian terms). That’s how I ended up coming across this delicious recipe for Ukrainian beet soup, which is an adaptation of several baba recipes.
A note from the recipe creator, my good friend Bridget Burns of The Vegan Project: “In reality, babas make borscht with whatever they have on hand, or what is available. Thus, no two batches are ever the same, so feel free to improvise with your vegetables. The constant is beets…”
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 tbsp butter (vegan sub: Earth Balance)
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 5 large beets, peeled and diced (chop up the greens too!)
- 5 carrots, diced
- 20 green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-3 inch pieces
- 1 can whole stewed tomatoes, crushed in your hand
- Pickle juice to taste (secret baba trick! If you don’t have it, substitute 2-4 tbsp vinegar and 1 tsp salt)
- 1 bunch fresh dill, chopped
- Lots of water
- Sour cream for garnish (vegan or regular)
In a large pot, add beets, tops, carrots, canned tomatoes and water (to cover the veggies and then some). Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer for 30 minutes. In a separate pan, sauté the diced onion in butter on low for about 20 minutes or until soft and lightly browned. Add sautéed onions to the pot with most of the dill, all of the green beans, pickle juice and black pepper and simmer for another 20 minutes or so. Add the rest of the fresh dill and serve hot with a dollop of sour cream.
Thank goodness for grandmas, babas and beets!