Morning Harvest

Morning Harvest

I don’t have a lot to say today. This post is more about bragging. (“Really, you’re going to brag, Leite? Is that how Momma Leite raised you?” I can hear you all thinking.) [Editor’s Note: I hate to be the one to tell you this, but this is not the first time David’s been a braggart.] Come on people, cut me some slack. I just harvested our first cucumber from our garden this morning—the first cucumber I’ve ever planted. Plus I pulled our very first beets ever out of the earth. What an extremely satisfying experience. They practically popped out themselves.

When I worked on Mr. Silvia’s farm when I was a kid, he never planted beets, so I never understood how they grew. In fact, this morning, my heart sank when I saw the tops of them cresting the soil. “Damn it,” I thought. “I screwed up again.” But before I did what I wanted to do, which was to yank each and every one of those suckers out of the ground and hurl them into the woods, I read up on them. They’re supposed to crest. It’s called “bulbing up.” I left the other 60 or so plants in the ground, right next to the carrots I’m desperate to pull out and take a peek at.

However, all is not glorious in Jardim de Leite e O Um. (That’s Portuguese for the Garden of Leite and The One.) We have tomato blight, which I had to battle with shears dipped in a bleach solution and then a spray of baking soda, vegetable oil, and water. And the basil plants, which until this year never took hold much, are practically shrubs. The problem? Japanese beetles. Plus the summer squash, cantaloupe, and watermelon have encroached on the pepper plants. We’re desperately trying to get the creepers to weave up the fence and away from the other produce. Stay tuned.

Yet through it all, I’m already designing next year’s beds and contemplating extending the garden by half. I am just so freaking proud of myself. (I know, I know, there I go bragging again.)


Well, I’m not bragging now. Our beets tasted very earthy, hardly sweet at all. Anyone have any ideas? They’re Detroit Reds.

If you’re looking for recipes for your bounty, try these

Beet and Carrot Fritters
Hibiscus Beet Sorbet
Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
Tomato and Goat Cheese Cobbler
Israeli Pickles
Japanese Cucumber Salad

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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  1. David, I would not call it bragging at all! You were simply sharing your joy of producing something you nurtured from the earth. …and you shared the problems with the beets, so it’s not bragging!

  2. What you have there is what our kids called dirt beets, my friend. My family has raised Detroits for probably 50 years. The secret is this, DO NOT peel the beets before cooking. The skins slip off easily when they are cooked, and a little trimming with a paring knife is all you need. Also leave about an inch or so of the stems still attached. That way they don’t bleed so much.

    Good Luck!


    1. Hmmm, Colleen, that’s exactly what we did. No peeling, about 2 inches of stalks, and just the very tip of the root is cut off….