May one cook or mix beet roots with beet greens? Question
Given that the commandment
לֹֽא־תְבַשֵּׁ֥ל גְּדִ֖י בַּחֲלֵ֥ב אִמּֽוֹ You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.
appears to prohibit cooking that which sustains life with that which is sustained, may we cook beet greens and beetroot together? If not, may we consume a salad of cold raw beet greens with cold cooked beetroot? Does the presence of liquid dressing change this?
The root(1) of kashrut is the following commandment, repeated three times, in Shmot 23:19 , Shmot 34:26 , and Devarim 14:21 :
לֹֽא־תְבַשֵּׁ֥ל גְּדִ֖י בַּחֲלֵ֥ב אִמּֽוֹ
You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.
(The lists of clean and forbidden, and the precept of shechita, are important, of course, but a topic for another month.)
Now, we have constructed many fences (Pirkei Avot 1:1) around the separation of literal meat and milk, but we rarely discuss the underlying lesson, separating that which sustains from that which is sustained.
Take, for example, beet greens and beetroots (the latter simply called 'beets' in American English, a custom I will follow here). While in ancient times it was common to use all parts of a plant or animal, there are very few examples remaining in the modern world of a plant where we commonly eat both roots and leaves.
Now, beets have an honored place in Jewish tradition. When we wandered 40 years in the desert we longed for the beets of Egypt. (Bamidbar 11:5; trans. Chas. Kahane) Vegans often use a roast beet on the Pesach Seder plate, sometimes citing Pesachim 114b:8 (disputed). On the Ashkenazi side the popularity of beet borscht, both milchik and fleishik versions, has outlasted most other foods some of our ancestors brought from the same region; the Sephardi Rosh Hashana Seder includes
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ [...] שֶׁיִּסְתַּלְּקוּ אוֹיְבֵינוּ וְשׂוֹנְאֵינוּ וְכָל מְבַקְשֵׁי רָעָתֵנוּ
May it be Your will, [...] that our enemies, haters and those who wish evil upon us shall depart. (trans. Chabad); much of the Seder is constructed based on the prescription to eat and remark upon beans, leeks, beets, dates, and pumpkin(2) for Rosh Hashana (Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chayim 583:1) (The tradition of apples and honey is also mentioned here.) The precise list and reasoning have varied, for example gourd, fenugreek, leeks, beets, and dates in Keritot 6a:2.
This is a rather remarkable list. We eat both squash and squash blossoms(3); fenugreek seeds and leaves are prized spices with noticeably different flavors; beans are good sources of protein while bean sprouts or shoots provide vitamins; leeks are eaten from bulb to leaves; only dates do not feed us in multiple ways, though their fruit is one of the most important foods of the desert, and sometimes the dessert.
Comparing beets and leeks, it is clear that these are different מִּינִים ("kinds")(5) -- a leek smoothly shades from green to white, and both parts are often used together, but a beet has a separate root and leafy part, separated by an inedible segment(4) in the mature beet, generally prepared and eaten separately.
So, given the incredible importance of a command repeated three times in the Torah, and the visible prominence of beets as a ceremonial vegetable, may beet greens be eaten with the roots?
(1) The halachic requirement to make puns in Adar is outside the scope of this question. For example, consult your shul's Ritual Committee before translating ברכו "Barchu" as "Lettuce Pray".
(2) American readers are reminded that in most of the English-speaking world 'pumpkin' refers to any hard winter squash, not just one specific round orange one. Pumpkin can be cooked with leeks or fenugreek but not, apparently, both at the same time; consult a competent chef or your favorite search engine for any remaining questions.
(3) Link is to a secular recipe site; use your judgement when evaluating the kashrut of recipes and consult your rabbi or mashgiach with any remaining questions.
(4) The proper way to shecht a beet is outside the scope of this question.
(5) And yet the same word in Bamidbar is translated as 'leeks' and 'beets' by different authorities, perhaps to lead us down a chain from selek to batzal to beitzah, and thence to the weighty question of egg drop soup, where a chicken egg is cooked in chicken broth.