Originally cultivated by the Romans, beets have been for centuries as a natural source of food coloring and sugar. They are an excellent source of folic acid and also contain good amounts of fiber, manganese, and potassium. The greens are rich in vitamins A and C and iron.
Storing Fresh Beets:
Much like carrots and other root vegetables, beets should be stored in a sealed plastic bag in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Check regularly and remove any beets that have nicks or damaged spots. Kept this way, they should last 2 to 3 weeks. Beet greens pull moisture out of the roots, so they should be removed before storing. Once separated from the beet root, the greens will wilt quickly. They will last a few days if wrapped in paper towel and stored in a plastic bag in the fridge.
Beet roots are best frozen if cooked first. They can simply be prepared as detailed above, boiled until tender, sliced or diced, and frozen in airtight containers or ziplock bags.
Search the phrase “pickled beets” online, and you will find an endless supply of recipes and suggestions. The basic idea is that your pickling brine should contain a 1:1 ratio of water to vinegar. Beyond this, you are free to add herbs, spices, and other vegetables, and to take the expedited route of making refrigerator pickles or to water-bath can your beets for a longer, shelf-stable life.
Quick Prep Tips
Further Prep Tips
Beet Green Preparation:
Beet greens come from the same family as spinach and chard. They should be removed from the root before storing. They wilt quickly, so it’s best to prepare them within a couple days of harvesting. Once trimmed from the root, they should be rinsed very well and dried.
The greens are delicious chopped up and mixed into salads, sautées like any other green, and even incorporated in pastas, soups, or meat and vegetable dishes.
Beet Root Preparation:
Beet roots are pretty straightforward. The biggest thing to keep in mind is that their vibrant color will hang on to everything it touches–your fingers, your clothes, your countertops. I have taken to wearing an apron and a pair of non-disposable, rubber kitchen gloves whenever I handle beets, so that I don’t end up wearing the beets for the rest of the day! Unlike your fingers, the beet juice will rinse right off the gloves.
If you’re serving beets in a salad, you can simply scrub them clean with a vegetable brush and grate them. If you want to serve them sliced or diced, it’s better to remove the thin skin first. This can either be done at the start with a vegetable peeler. Alternatively, the beets can be roasted, after which their skin will rub right off.
Because of their naturally high sugar content, beets are delicious when eaten raw. Whether raw or cooked, they can be sliced, diced, or grated; served on their own or as part of other dishes; pureed into veggie burgers; and even pickled in a variety of ways. They are a very versatile root vegetable.