Has this ever happened to you? You buy a bunch of beets to roast, pickle, or cook, and you’re left with the tops. Not wanting to waste the greens, you look for a way to use them. But how to do that and end up with a dish you want to eat – and not just because you feel as though you should? I had this dilemma – beet greens soup was the solution.
I even got bonus points because the soup is vegan. But it’s not just a yummy dish for vegans, it’s also a vegetarian delight. Even my beloved, a confirmed carnivore, gobbled it up. I’m counting it as an all-round win.
This recipe, adapted from a Polish soup posted by Monika of EverydayHealthyRecipes, does involve a fair amount of chopping. It also involves grating (of a carrot.) I used what my mom used to call a “finger ripper,” a 4-sided box grater.
All that goes to say that the soup is not a super quick dish. However, you can easily make more than you need for one meal. So the time spent prepping ingredients yields lots of food. Besides, taste-wise, the result is well worth the effort.
I used to save soup for cold days and chilly evenings. But no more. Soups like this one are delicious in spring too, even when a warm breeze blows and you can see the leaves and flowers budding. This soup is especially springlike because it is so colorful. The red stems of the beet greens contrast vibrantly with the green leaves and the other vegetables.
Even though the colors become a bit more muted after cooking, the overall effect reminds me of the colors of early spring, as redbuds, azaleas, and leafy trees begin to bud.
Basically a vegetable soup, this one has all the usual vegetable “suspects” – onions, garlic, carrots, celery, potatoes, plus, of course, beet greens. A less common vegetable, leek or shallot, makes an appearance for a mild yet pungent and slightly sweet note. When I was a kid, we called this a “stone soup” after the children’s book of that name. Here’s another version of the “use what you have” vegetable soup.
The herbs and spices are a combination of ones you probably use frequently, a bay leaf, dill and parsley, with a more unusual one, allspice berries. Although I knew about allspice berries from my Hamilton Cookbook days (it comes from the West Indies, where Hamilton was raised), I had never used it in European-based cooking. The spice, which others describe as tasting and smelling like a combination of cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon, seems to me to also have a peppery note. I loved the addition of these berries. You can buy a small jar and use them for lots of other dishes besides this beet greens soup. For example, pickled vegetables, pumpkin or apple pie, or even jerk chicken or swedish meatballs.
I’ve added at least one ingredient that isn’t commonly found in Eastern European recipes, soy sauce or tamari. It provides umami, that meaty, broth-like or savory taste that complements and deepens the other flavors in the soup.
Tips for Making Beet Greens Soup
- Beet greens don’t last. Although uncooked beets last a long time, beet greens are not so hardy. Kept in a plastic bag, unwashed in the refrigerator, they stay fresh less than a week. So make the soup soon after you buy the beets even if you’re going to leave the beets unused for longer. This soup freezes well or you can refrigerate it for several days, so it’s a good one to keep around.
- Washing & chopping vegetables. Washing greens (and leeks) may not be fun, but it’s essential. I cut them and then wash the pieces in a colander, with water flowing through until they are completely clean. Then I dry them with a clean dish towel. Chopping vegetables is also a chore. (There’s so much to chop with beet greens. You can use the pretty red stems as well as the green, veined, leaves.) But play your favorite music and the time will speed by. Or listen to a recorded book.
- Ratio of vegetables to broth. As your soup cooks, decide for yourself if the ratio of vegetables to broth is good or if you need to add more of one or the other. There is nothing in this soup that you can’t sip half-cooked, so taste away. And if you decide to add your favorite vegetable broth instead of more water, that’s fine too.
- Mise en place. I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but prepping all the ingredients before you start to cook is really the way to go.
Beet Greens Soup, The Vegan Version
This soup is basically vegetable soup that uses up all those beet greens you might have otherwise thrown away. It's also a "stone soup", so you can use whatever you have instead of, or in addition to, carrots and potatoes.
- 1 bunch beet greens (from 3-5 beets). Well washed and finely diced. About 5-7 oz/145-200 g. Include the stems as well as the green leaves. See note below about how to cut them.
- 1 medium-large onion, finely diced. About 6 oz/170g
- 1 leek, white and light green parts only, cut in half vertically, then thinly sliced, washed & dried or 1-2 shallots, finely diced. About 5 & 3/4 oz/164 g
- 1/2-1 stalk celery, finely diced About 2 & 1/2 oz/75 g
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced See note about mincing versus dicing.
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and coarsely grated About 2 & 3/4 oz/80 g
- 4 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled or well washed and cubed About 1 & 1/2 lb/680 g
- 3 tablespoons Olive or other vegetable oil
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 allspice berries
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
- 1-2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 4 cups hot water
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup combination of fresh dill and flat leaf parsley with thin stems only, finely minced. About 1/2 oz/15 g. See note about mincing versus dicing.
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Heat the oil for a few minutes in a medium-large pot until it shimmers. Add the bay leaf, allspice berries, finely diced onion, leek or shallot, and celery. Sauté, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes. If the vegetables make a crackling sound, that's fine. Just don't let them burn or even brown much at the edges.
Add the garlic, beet greens, and carrot. Continue to cook and stir for another 2-3 minutes, allowing all the vegetables to soften and begin to cook.
Add the potatoes, soy sauce or tamari, tomato paste. and the water. Stir to combine all the ingredients, raise the heat and bring the liquid to a boil. Then cover the pot and lower the heat to a simmer. Continue cooking for another 20 minutes.
Add the parsley, dill, salt, and pepper and cook, covered, for another 10 minutes.
Serve warm or hot with bread, a bagel or a similar starch. Salad would also be a nice accompaniment.