Sadly stereotyped as soggy and canned, fresh beets are actually sweet, earthy, and incredibly delicious!
Beets are believed to be a vegetable from prehistory, once growing wild over vast swathes of the northern hemisphere, from Britain all the way to India. Initially just the leaves were appreciated for their taste while the roots were consigned to medicinal uses by the Romans and Greeks. Finally, in the third century AD, the roots were declared to taste “better than cabbage,” and for good reason! Beets contain more sucrose (sugar) than any other vegetable!
Now, beets of all varieties are enjoyed: recent hybrids have golden orange or white interiors, and some are layered inside with concentric rings of pink and white.
Beets can be boiled or steamed, but baking or roasting yields the sweetest, most intense flavor. Cooked beets can be used in a myriad of ways, and even thinly sliced raw beet is delicious in salads.
Buy beets with the stems and leaves attached: these should look fresh, a sign that the beets have been recently dug. Look for bulbs with smooth, unblemished, tight skin. Use leaves and stems within 2 days of purchase. Trimmed beets will keep, stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, for up to 10 days.