Beets can come in deep, resplendent fuchsia, golden yellow and the lovely pink-and-white Chioggia variety. All are high in magnesium, sodium, potassium, folic acid and antioxidants, including the super-charged betaine, which protects against heart disease and stroke, and helps to reduce cholesterol. The edible leaves are full of vitamins and antioxidants, too, especially vitamins A and C.
What to buy
Look for firm, heavy beets and — if still attached — bright, unwilted greens. Different colored beets can be used interchangeably in recipes. They're at their most tender during summer to early fall and will last about a week if you clip their greens when you get home and store both separately in the refrigerator.
References to beets have been found in manuscripts from ancient Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome. The Romans thought beets helped to relieve fevers and digestive problems. They also thought the beet was an aphrodisiac, but then again, the Romans seemed to regard a lot of things as aphrodisiacs. Sugar was discovered in beets in the 18th century and became a cash crop in the United States starting in the mid-19th century. Sugar beets now make up about 55 percent of U.S. sugar production.
How to prepare
Raw beets can be shredded or cubed to use in salads. Steaming and boiling are other cooking methods, and in the South, pickling is a popular choice. Borscht, a soup made with beets, potatoes and beef, and topped with sour cream, is a classic from Eastern Europe. In India, beets arrive as a side dish, spiced with curry. One of the best and simplest ways to prepare beets is to roast them in the oven — and don't forget about the greens, which can be de-stemmed and sautéed like spinach.
Aromatic Beets in Red Wine Owen Lane of The Magpie shared his recipe for tender, summer beets. 3 pounds of beets (any variety of your choice, but include red beets) 2 cinnamon sticks 2 star anise 10 whole cloves 5 bay leaves 15 to 20 whole black peppercorns 1/2 cup of sugar 1/3 cup of aged vincotto (or substitute an aged balsamic vinegar) 4 cups of red wine Salt, to taste Put all of the ingredients into a large pot. Add just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, and then simmer until the beets are fork-tender, about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the beets. Slice the beets and then roughly chop. Serve mounded as a side dish.