A little fire, a little smoke, and a few pretty vegetables

Campfire Chioggia Beets with Summer Vegetables, Garlic, and Lemon features a classic technique with a little lively added!

Our camping trips with my parents always centered on playing in the water and enjoying the food. When we weren’t boating or eating, it seems like we were talking about what we were going to eat next. Mom had her whole repertoire of camping dishes, salads, and sides she would pack to bring with us, such as simple sliced potatoes and onions in foil on the wood coals. She also loved to make special dishes such as grilled lobster over the camp fire, a ritual on summer holiday weekends, and some of our favorite memories, along with the loons and crickets in the background.

Next generation

My own children also loved camping, the leisurely fun of being able to jump in the lake just about any minute of the day, and the food of course. While I could rarely afford the lobster, we made many special dishes with what we had, and everything cooked on an open wood fire tastes better, no matter how simple. 

Gourmet camping?

When the kids left the nest, we often camped with two other couples and we each took a night to prepare dinner. Of course, we loved making something special, not just hamburgers and hotdogs. We’d often plan some pretty special meals that are surprisingly easy to cook without benefit of electricity or gas, all the flavors enhanced with the wood smoke. Glazed salmon, seafood kebobs, special chilis with all the fixings were all delights we assembled at home, packed to the site, and then shared.

Don’t forget the sides

The side dishes were also important as well, whether dressed up potatoes cooked on the fire coals, fresh corn on the cob, or whatever seasonal veggies struck our fancy.

So pretty. Chioggia beets are also a little sweeter and milder in flavor than the hefty red ones. Golden beets make a good substitution.

Chioggia beets (pronounce: kee oh’ jah) are the only ones I really like. They are sweet and light and they don’t bleed all over the other vegetables! These beautiful candy-striped beets are an Italian heirloom variety, and every inch of them including the tops are edible. They are delicious roasted, baked, steamed, boiled, sautéed, or brined into pickles. Need I even mention how nutritious they are!

En papillote

They are also delicious cooked en papillote over a campfire. It’s a simple process, I bet you’ve done it, wrap those vegetables in foil and let the coals do the rest. Here I just sliced up the beets, you don’t even need to peel them, and placed them with other vegetables on foil lined with parchment paper. If the beets come with their top greens, toss them into the packet as well! Season, seal well, and nestle into the white coals.

A quick and easy method

These became a camping staple with us when the beets were in season. I could prepare the packet at home and when it was time to think about cooking supper, on the coals they went. I’ve added lemon to jazz them up a bit, lots of garlic and scallions, and just a touch of maple syrup to round it all out.

You can use any combination of vegetables you like, what is in season and what is the most tasty. What do you like? You can even use just the beets and scallions!

Other cooking methods

You will find Chioggia beets at the farm stands and markets right now, but if you don’t just substitute golden beets. Of course, if you are not camping, you can do this on your charcoal grill, or just in a hot 450-degree oven. Add a little smoked paprika, close your eyes, and might find yourself next to a campfire just for a moment. Hear the loons?

After the last two camping trips of rain, rain, cold rain, and leaky tent, we decided to rent cottages from this point on! But we’ll still have the wood fire to make our favorite dishes!

Campfire Chioggia Beets and Mixed Vegetables with Lemon and Garlic

  • 3 large Chioggia beets, greens too if available
  • 2 small carrots
  • 2 small summer squash
  • 2 small zucchinis
  • 1 small firm apple
  • 3 scallions, whites and greens
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 or 4 cloves garlic
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1 tsp. maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp. fruity olive oil

 This can be assembled well ahead of its cook time, even the night before, to be ready when the coals on the wood fire are ready.

Take two long sheets of foil and fold the long edge together well, double fold so it won’t leak. Line this with parchment paper.

Slice all vegetables and mix them together. Place on the parchment and nestle in the bay leaves and lemon zest.

 Mix together the garlic, lemon juice, maple syrup, and olive oil and pour over the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Bring the long sides together first and fold down to seal, then fold up the short sides. The packet should be well sealed so the vegetables will steam.

After 30 minutes or so, open up the top and check. They should be cooked, but you want to leave them on the coals a few minutes longer, packet open, so the smoke will add to the flavor. It doesn’t take long!

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55 Comments Add yours

  1. Bernadette says:

    Such pretty beets. Do they stay that color after cooking?

    1. They fade a bit, but still are beautiful. The lead post photo and the one over the recipe show the cooked vegetables.

  2. I love this mix of veggies and the ingenious way of cooking them! Why has it never occurred to me, I wonder?

    1. It’s so easy, so forgiving, and it always tastes really good!

      1. Aas soon as I am able to climb back on the boat, I am making it!

      2. Soon, my dear Dolly, soon!

      3. Thank you so much, darling! I am blessed with so many good friends.

  3. Chef Mimi says:

    I would be thrilled to have this to look forward to when camping!!!

    1. We always look forward to the food and the great company, mostly I think just being away from the distractions. It’s best to go where your cell phones don’t work, and in Vermont that’s a lot of campgrounds!

  4. Sheree says:

    Looks scrumptious

    1. Thank you Sheree! It’s always fun as well.

      1. Sheree says:


  5. Looks delicious as always Dorothy. Your gourmet camping reminds me of the barbecue potluck suppers I used to have up north with some neighbours. We would make anything. Oriental suppers were always a bit hit – cooked on an open fire on the big barbecue at the school grounds. Good times!

    1. They are always good times, and they are memorable as well! The smoke makes everything twice as tasty.

  6. Ronit says:

    Camping is so much fun, and this is a great way to prepare vegetables.
    The beets are so pretty and the addition of an apple in the mix is brilliant. 🙂

    1. Thank you my friend! The apple was just the right touch!

  7. Suzassippi says:

    I enjoy all of these, so it is time for a trip to the market to re-up on the plant-based.

    1. There are so many wonderful veggies right now, just about everything we want!

  8. What a beautiful and healthy plate. 😍

    1. Thanks Doc! It’s such a fun way to cook too!

  9. lisinmayenne says:

    A lovely recipe, Dorothy – this is such a wonderful way of cooking! We love to barbecue over wood all year round and the veggies are often the star, it’s incredible how delicious something as humble as Swiss chard becomes cooked en papillote with garlic and herbs. My beetroot have suffered very badly in the heat and drought but as it has cooled and finally started to rain yesterday (😀😀😀🤸‍♀️🤸‍♀️🤸‍♀️) hopefully I shall have a crop to use in your recipe before too long. 😍

  10. Gail says:

    Woodsmoke is unforgettable. The food from a bonfire is always delicious and the memories never fade. 🔥

    1. Those memories linger like little wisps of smoke!

  11. NativeNM says:

    This reminds me of my childhood when we would go camping. Mom always had an extensive garden so there were so many veggies that she would pack to be cooked over an open fire. Dad fished for trout and I can remember the smoky flavors of the fish and veggies that tasted so good! Great recipe!

    1. Ah Jan, you’ve tickled some of my favorite memories of my Dad fishing and mom tossing those beautiful trout on the fire. Still my favorite fish, bar none!
      Dad would take turn bringing each of us fishing one-on-one, and the only thing he insisted on was that whatever we caught, we cleaned. Glad for those lessons, except the hornpout (a type of catfish) which could lend a nasty sting if not careful!

  12. sunisanthosh says:

    Enjoyed the healthy food and love the wood fire cooking. 🌝

    1. Thank you! I love a recipe that tastes really delicious first, and is also good for you!

  13. This is a great dish for South Africa, Dorothy. We cook over an open fire a lot here during the summer time.

    1. Hope you enjoy these wonderful veggies Robbie!

  14. Christy B says:

    I’m not a big fan of camping but if you were making meals like this one on the trip, I’d be there!!

    1. You’re invited! But no more tents for me!

  15. terrie gura says:

    Great memories, Dorothy! You and your family were “glamping” before it was even a thing! Such beautiful gourmet cooking.

    1. The lobsters were the best Terrie! Once in a while, for no special reason, mom would surprise us with them. We loved sitting by the fire dismantling these tasty bites. Perfect.

  16. There is nothing like foil packet food over a campfire. I love the way those beets look but even more so all the veggies together!

    1. Thanks Diane! Even after they were grilled, the color was lovely!

  17. I’ve not seen or heard of this type of beet, so pretty! I’m not much of a camper, but I would love to throw a foil packet of yummy veggies on the grill, sounds wonderful!

    1. It’s so easy and kind of fun, but the best reward is the delicious dish!

  18. We camped for many years with the grandchildren. Good memories of great times and wonderful food cooked outside. This dish looks delicious.

    1. Thanks Judy! It is tasty, and really easy to make as well. I love that I can pack it up in the morning and toss it on the fire at night!

  19. Jovina Coughlin says:

    Great way to cook and serve beets.

    1. Thank you! It is really delicious!

  20. Anonymous says:

    I love beets any which way and that chioggia beet is very pretty the whole dish looks very tasty and pretty 🙂

    1. Thank you! I love any veggie roasted on an open fire, but this combination is particularly memorable.

    1. Thank you for the link my friend!

  21. Anonymous says:

    Beets are so healthy and I should be eating more of them—this is a great recipe for me to keep in mind! 🙂

    1. Hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

  22. Anonymous says:

    I left the comment above–not sure why my comments are showing as anonymous! :(–NancyC

    1. Mine are too, and you are not the only Someone here on my comments section! Others are having the same problem, so it is nothing you are dong, just a WP glitch. Dorothy

  23. I love cooking the veggies like this! What a great combination of colors!

    1. Thanks! It was a feast for the eyes and all senses!

  24. Everything Plant says:

    Great post about beets. I was going to write about beets on my blog too. I loved reading this! 🌱😁

    1. Thank you! Beets are aplenty right now!

      1. Everything Plant says:

        You’re very welcome. You may enjoy my site about plants too you. Have a great day Dorothy! 🌱😁

      2. You too! We are getting much needed rain here!

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