Selecting Beets

Beets are loved for their sweet and succulent roots. This hearty and versatile vegetable also boasts greens that are delicious in their own right.

When selecting beets, your best bet is to choose small, firm ones that are well-rounded and uniformly sized for even cooking. The freshest beets are those with bright, crisp greens on top. The skins should be deep red, smooth, and unblemished. Thin taproots, the roots that extend from the bulb of the beets, are good indicators of tenderness. Once home, cut off the greens because they suck moisture from the beets. Leave two inches of stem to prevent the beet from "bleeding" when cooked. Keep beets in a cool place; refrigerated, they'll keep for a week or two.

Tips for Preparing and Serving Beets

Wash fresh beets gently, or broken skin will allow color and nutrients to escape. For this reason, peel beets after they're cooked. Watch out for beets' powerful pigments; they can stain utensils and wooden cutting boards. Microwaving retains the most nutrients. Steaming is acceptable but takes 25 to 45 minutes. Or roast them in the oven at 325°F until tender to develop their sweetness.

beet root being washed
Beet roots should be washed gently.

Beets have a succulent sweetness because, unlike most vegetables, they contain more sugar than starch. Beets taste great on their own, but if you'd like to enhance their delicious flavor, add a dash of salt or pepper or a drizzle of olive oil.

Beets are very versatile when it comes to preparation -- they can be pickled, cooked and diced for salads, boiled, roasted or even eaten raw.

Naturally-sweet beets are also low in calories. Learn about the other ways in which beets are good for you in the next section.

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