Purple Soup

January 24, 2010

Purple Soup

This week it rained, even hailed for a noisy moment, and I enjoyed the crash of thunder and one quick flash of lightening from our front window.  But it was cold, and everything in the garden seemed to be covered in the mud and sand that splashed up from the heavy drops and strong winds.

Standing in the garden with barren raised beds and the rain falling on my head, I pulled up some of our last beets.  My hands were muddy and and there was dirt on my face, and for a moment I felt like Scarlet O’Hara pulling up the last scrawny carrot out of the red clay of Georgia.

But beets are not to be mourned.  They are so full of color and vitamins they should be as celebrated as a summer berry, and they double deliver with iron rich green tops.  So though it is winter, and we seem to be losing variety, we haven’t lost hope.  Here’s a recipe for some real color to warm and brighten a rainy Oakland day.

Purple Soup
(Beets, Carrots and Ginger)

Source of local ingredients detailed

3 to 5 small to medium beet roots (funk town farm)
an equal amount of carrots (funk town hippie baby carrots)
1 small apple (Grand Lake Farmers Market, $0.50/lb)
1/2 a small lemon (neighbor’s tree)
1/4 red onion (Grand Lake Farmers Market)
1 small or medium ginger root (Jack London Square Farmers Market)

1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tbl spoons butter (bummed off a neighbor)
1 to 2 cups water or chicken stock (chicken stock preferable, I didn’t have any)
keep salt and pepper on hand for final seasoning
1 teaspoon cumin

Roast the Roots.

Preheat oven to 350F.
Mix all dry ingredients except cumin in a small bowl, set aside.
Choose a baking dish with a lid or have tinfoil on hand to cover it. Wash all vegetables to remove any dirt.  Cut carrots to fit into the baking dish. Cut apple into quarters, discard core.  Dice onion.  Toss carrots, apple and onion in the dry mixture and put in baking dish.  If the beets still have the greens on them, cut the stalks off at the base and set greens aside for another dish.  Add beets to baking dish.

Note on beets:  You will have to peel the beets after they cook.  You can cook all the vegetables together, then separate the beets afterward to peel them.  That’s what I did, but note that it’s a little messy because the beets inevitably have butter and sugar on them and require hand peeling.  You can put the beets in a separate baking dish if you’re worried about the mess.

Cut butter into small pieces and add to dish.  Bake the vegetables, covered, for 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool enough to handle the beets.  Because I wasn’t ready to make soup yet, I put the whole baking dish in the fridge until the next day, when I peeled the beets.

Peeling beets.  Once the beets have cooled enough to handle, their thin but tough skin is easy to peel off by hand.  I found that after leaving them in the fridge overnight the skins practically separated from the beet and removing the peel was very easy.  However, you’ll do this by hand and your fingers will get very purple.  Just rinse your hands off when your done and dry your hands, but not with your finest white kitchen towel.

Make Soup.

Peel and dice the ginger root.

If you have a hand immersion mixer, simply dump the contents of the baking dish into a deep soup pot.  Add the peeled beets and ginger root.  If any of your vegetables are in large pieces, now is a good time to cut them into 1 to 2 inch pieces.  Just us a butter knife to chop of the soft beets and carrots in the pot.  Add about 1/2 cup of water or broth and bring to a simmer.  Puree the veggies with the immersion mixture until the soup is smooth.  You may need to add a little more water.  The deep soup pot should keep you from splashing purple soup on your clothes.  Aprons are good when working with beets.

If you prefer to use a blender instead of a hand mixer, dump the contents of the baking dish, along with peeled beets and ginger, into a standing blender.  Add 1/2 to 1 cup of water (or broth) and blend until smooth.  Transfer smooth mixture to soup pot.

Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer.  Add cumin and squeeze the lemon juice into the pot.  Stir and add more water depending on the consistency you desire.  Taste it.  Decide if it needs more salt and pepper.  This depends on your taste and the potency of your ingredients.

Allow to simmer for at least 20 minutes.  If you added too much water, you can simmer uncovered and it will cook down and thicken, the longer it cooks the thicker it’ll get.  If the consistency is just right, simmer covered and stir occasionally.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

This could be made with a variety of root vegetables or just carrots.

Read more recipes from people who grow their own food at “Grow Your Own” by Andrea, http://www.andreasrecipes.com/gyo/.  Check out the purple tomatillo salsa!


3 Responses to “Purple Soup”

  1. The Winter rains bring the promise of Spring. The only thing I dread about them is the weeds.

    Since you are using homegrown ingredients, would you like to enter this post in our Grow Your Own roundup this month? Full details at


  2. […] Betsy, who has a Kitchen Garden in Oakland, California, pulled up the last of her beets from her garden and turned them into a healthy purple soup. […]

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