In the Santa Ana wind blown months of Fall, our Summer garden begins to enter its true decline. The tomato plants begin to bear less fruit, the peppers, cucumbers, melons, and grapes have given all they have to give. Outside of herbs and potatoes, there’s not much else that will happen in our garden as we enter the cooler months of the season. Plants are uprooted, and our garden becomes bare again.

As we do every Fall, we begin to germinate seeds for a Winter crop of root vegetables. Growing vegetables underground is always a safe play for us, as we tend to have a serious pest problem all Summer. If the tomato worms don’t attack our plants, the rabbits and rats come for their nightly feedings. While I’ve managed to keep those problems under control, it’s so much more comforting to not have to worry about pests when they can’t get to what we’re growing. And root vegetables are out of sight.

Because I’m always looking for unique things to grow, I decided to try my hand at Red Chioggia beets this time. Red Chioggia, otherwise known as Candy Striped beets, taste pretty much like any other beet. It’s their appearance that attracts me most. I mean, if you’re going to plant something, why plant the same thing you could drive to the market to buy? We eat beets a lot, so I try to throw as much color as I can on the plate. The standard burgundy colored beet is universal. The golden beet is usually the only variety I have at my disposal, unless I’m lucky enough to find a farmer at our farmers market who grows Red Chioggia.

I harvested our beets recently, yanking them from their Winter sleep one early morning last week. I removed the greens, peeled the beets raw, then sliced them as thinly as possible on a mandolin. After washing the beet greens, I sautéed them in a little bit of olive oil, along with some thinly sliced onions. I served the sliced raw beets across the top of the greens, dotted the plates with a balsamic reduction for dipping, and surprised my wife with a light raw beet salad fresh from our garden.

Vegetables are available in the market year-round, but we all know that in-season is best. Spring through Fall, we can have pretty much anything we want. But come Winter and things get a little dull. I’m slowly finding ways to keep things exciting at our table when there’s little to be excited about.