I tried a new variety of beet this year-a heirloom beet named ‘Rouge Crapaudine’. Do I dare try to pronounce it?! Ha! This beet hails from France and is one of the oldest varieties of beet in history possibly dating back 1000 years and still around! Craupadine means female toad in french! It’s not pretty-it’s shaped like a very rough fat carrot (definitely toadlike) and it’s skin looks like tree bark (toadlike again) hence the name. In fact it’s downright ugly BUT the dense purple flesh is divinely sweet and sought out by chefs. In France they sell them at farmers markets both raw and roasted. I was curious so I looked up how they cook it over there.
First wash the beets (you don’t have to oil or skin them) and place them in several layers of foil (beets on shiny side) and close it up tight on the top and both ends. Then put it directly on hot coals in your fireplace (yes that’s right) but not on a direct flame. A fun thing to do in the winter after having a nice warm fire.
It will cook inside the foil on the coals. How long to cook it depends on how hot your coals are. Mine took about 45-50 minutes total turning halfway through. You’ll have to take it off the coals and check it for tenderness with a fork from time to time as there is no exact science as this is an art!
The skin will come off easy after they are cooked once they cool down. But be aware your hands will turn a lovely shade of magenta! For more details you can go here at the website frenchgardening.com where I learned about this beet and French cooking method.
Crapaudine beets get a sweet smoky flavor cooking it this way. You can also cook them in a more traditional way in an oven for about 45-60 minutes at 350°F. They’ll still be good but without the smokiness. Do try it in the fireplace for a treat.
After cooking them in the fireplace, I made a salad with the beets sliced and placed on a bed of greens with some crumbled goat cheese, pinon nuts sprinkled on them and topped with a balsamic dressing-absolutely fantastic. I didn’t even like beets-until now.
Crapaudine beet seeds are hard to find but I found them at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Sow them next spring and just be sure you sow more seeds than you think necessary as they are tough to germinate and some won’t come up. Plant them in spring as they will take at least 3 months to be ready to harvest. Then harvest in late summer and store in a refrigerator all winter if you like and save for a wonderful fall-winter treat. Crapaudine beets can also be used in any beet recipe.