Ruby roots

Ruby roots

Plucked fresh from the earth, the fist-sized orbs sport a coat of dirt, while thread-like tendrils hang at the bottom of their tapering root and tall purple stems shoot out from the top, narrow into veins through leafy tops. After weeks and months of doing little but weed and water the garden, I jolt with pleasure at the harvest, brush the beets to rid them of the worst of the dirt.

In the kitchen, a snip at both ends brings each beet into focus. Bristles brush off the most stubborn grit, and water washes it down into the sink. The globes glisten a dark, dull pink.

The spheres sit, hinting at potential. The tip of a paring knife works to scoop out the few black holes and slice off the thickest parts of the skin.

On the cutting board, the edge of a blade scores the beet’s solid flesh, presses through. The two halves fall away, a shock of rich ruby. Within minutes, cubes fill a large bowl.

A drizzle of olive oil dots the surface of the topmost cubes, and I scoop them up and over and through, up and over and through, kneading them as dough with my grandmother’s hands, until each one gleams.

The concept of beets as my birthright sweeps through me, along with stories of Ukrainian and Polish ancestors. I let it all pass, knowing that so many cultures have been saved by nourishing roots, or ruined by their absence. Let anyone claim the beet, celebrate its glory of colour, its sweet essence.

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