03 December 2009

Purple Stuff: Mystery Vegetable

Please help us identify this leafy, purple vegetable.

We bought it the other day at our green grocer's, not really caring what it was, just that it looked very good. It was among the other seasonal greens (yeah, it's purple...) without any labeling. I asked the cashier what it was, and she enthusiastically told me they were... beet leaves!

This was a bit surprising to me, as I've been eating beet greens since I could remember, and they've always been green, with just a hint of red in the stem sometimes.

Before diving into them tonight, I did a little online research. The closest thing I could come up with is orach (based on this photo at The Kitchn) aka German mountain spinach. But I'm still not convinced...

We tasted some of it raw, and it actually tasted not like beet greens, but a bit like beet root! Sweet, sugary, a bit mineral-y. After lightly wilting it, though, it gave off a beet-like juice (only much less intense) and lost its sweetness, tasting more or less like spinach.

So how did we have it? I added spinach to the pan while wilting in garlic-tinged olive oil, and served it both over and under buta-no-kakuni (Japanese style braised pork belly) over chestnut basmati rice.

And yeah, it was as good as it looks.

And although Alannah wasn't as intrigued by the whole beet-like flavor (notice the beet juice coloring tinting the rice, above) I'm ready to have the rest raw in a salad, maybe with a citrusy zest.

So does anyone know what this is? And how it's normally eaten? First definitive answer wins a moist, sticky date.

No, not with Alannah, but a nice, sugary deglet noor from North Africa. (Winner must take delivery in Paris, as fruit products generally do not pass customs. Kthxbai.)


  1. So what you're saying is, you're a fruit?

  2. Facebook commenters have suggested the unlikely sweet purple basil (definitely not basil!), and various chards. The chard description that comes the closest is "Swiss Chard Ruby Red," but it really doesn't seem like any chard I'm familiar with. However, I'm thinking since it was priced the same as the baby spinach (i.e. relatively expensive) that it could be a baby form of some green... ? Or baby chard?

    Stumped. :-/

  3. Bulls Blood Beets. They are an heirloom variety and delicious.