I always hated beets—until I met Jeffrey Robey at the Lynchburg, Virginia, Community Market. All summer he was my go-to guy for fresh yellow squash and tomatoes. Now he is the king of all things green—collards, kale, and mustard greens. At least those are my top three picks when I stop at his outdoor stand, where he sets up every Saturday at 7:00 a.m. and winds down by early afternoon. Jeffrey loyally mans his post year-round, even on the frostiest mornings.
While happily rummaging through flappy collards, I glanced up. A grinning Jeffrey held up a mess of beets, pure purplish and green earthiness.
“No way,” I said. “I ate my grandmother’s pickled beets for decades just to be polite—and choked on almost every swallow. Then she piled more on my plate. I call that suffering for love.”
“Keep it simple,” said Jeffrey, “and the beets will go down easy.”
“OK, what’s the secret recipe?”
“I don’t have a recipe,” he said. “I just use good-sense roasting.”
“Give me what you got.”
“Rinse them well and chop off the leafy tops.” OK, I figured as much. “Preheat your oven at 375 ° or thereabouts,” Jeffrey continued. “Then wrap the beets in aluminum foil. Oh, yeah, toss in some olive oil before you wrap.”
“Don’t drown them,” he said. “A drizzle works for me.”
“How long does it take?” I asked, a lover of 30-minute—certainly 15-minute—recipes.
“About a 45-minute wait time, give or take,” Jeffrey said casually. “You can tell they’re ready when you poke them with a fork and they’re tender.”
“Yep. Unwrap the foil and let them cool down a little before you take a bite. Salt and pepper the way you like it.”
You can Google any recipe. Glossy pages of cookbooks and magazines present perfect ingredient lists, methods, and photos styled for hours. Very pretty but not too personal.
What’s better than walking the community market beat?
Love home-grown America. Go local! Skip the big box doorbusters and celebrate Small Business Saturday on November 30. If you live in or plan to travel to central Virginia, check out the Lynchburg Community Market on Facebook.
For more information: The SBA celebrates Small Business Saturday 2013.