5 Things You Need To Know About Beets

By kowshi


The beet is the undisputed king of misunderstood vegetables. If there is one vegetable or fruit that is most commonly disliked by the average person, the beet must be it. In this case, like some others, I believe the blame lies in the mistreatment that beets endured in the past which resulted in such lack of popularity. It's much easier to dislike something we do not understand than try and comprehend it, now isn't it? Indeed, the beet is confusing in a way. Very earthy in flavor and yet naturally very sweet. A love-it-or-hate-it type of thing? Perhaps. But treated properly, it is the most rewarding and giving root vegetable available. And one of my ultimate favorites. The variety of colored beets available now makes them even more attractive: Albino (white), golden yellow and the whimsical Chioggia, a.k.a. the candy cane beet.

1. What to look for:

The beet root should be free of bruises or cuts. Don't be intimidated by and dirt residues on the root. You're going to wash them thoroughly anyways, and hey, that's where it came from! Make sure the taproot (the long, bottom end of the root) is still attached. A hairy taproot will indicate the old age of the beet which will give you a woody, fibrous root. No thanks. The main indicators of freshness will be the leaves and stems. The fresher and crisper looking, the better.

2. What to feel for:

The beet root should feel heavy for it's size. Also, break one of the stems to check how crisp it feels. As mentioned earlier, the crisper the better.

3. How to care for:

As soon as you get home, cut off the leaves and attempt to cook them as soon as possible. Keep the roots in a ziplock bag in the fridge and use within a week.

4. Cook it!

The leaves should be treated like spinach. That does not mean you drown them in a pot of salted water and cook them till lifeless oblivion. Instead, give them a good rinse under cold water and leave somewhat wet. Give them a rough chop and place them in a heavy enameled pot and then put on stove; high heat. Stir when the bottom leaves have started to wilt and stir again every minute or 2, till all the leaves have wilted and the moisture in them has released. At this point add a generous amount of butter (it's ok...) or olive oil and stir to emulsify. The leaves have a natural minerality to them, therefore no salt is necessary. It's a true 2-ingredient wonder. Three, if you count the water.

The roots: first option, steam. Heat a wide and large pan with roughly 2” of water. Add 3-4 garlic cloves and 2-3 sprigs of thyme to the water. Place rinsed beet roots in a steaming basket inside the pan. Make sure the beets sit above the water and not in contact with it. Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and let steam for 20-30 minutes or until beets are tender enough for a sharp knife to penetrate with no resistance. The second option, roast. Place the beets on a large sheet of foil. Season them with salt and a drizzle of olive oil. Close the sheet of foil to create an air tight pouch, place in a pan and put in 325 degree oven for 2 hours*. Let cool and peel the skin. Save the juice that has collected in the pouch. It is liquid gold! You can use it for a magical beet vinaigrette.

* Technically, you're steaming the beets this way, as well. The steam is created by their own natural moisture, which has nowhere to escape, therefore cooking the beets.

5. Friends and allies:

Goat cheese (or any other pungent cheese)
Citrus fruit and juice
Aged Balsamic vinegar