Look for smooth, hard beets with undamaged skins; soft or shriveled spots could indicate an older root that’s lost some moisture. Smaller beets are more tender and cook faster than larger ones; those wider than 2½ inches in diameter tend to have tough, woody cores. Unwashed beets will keep in the refrigerator in a plastic bag for two to four weeks.
When buying beets with greens attached, choose beets whose greens are crisp and dark in color. To prevent moisture drainage from the root, remove the greens by cutting through the stem about 2 inches above the bulb. The extra stem will help the beet retain nutrients and color during cooking. Refrigerate greens separately in a plastic bag for two to four days, and use them as you would other leafy greens: sautéed with garlic, wilted into hot soup, or processed into a pesto (see our template at “Anything Pesto”).
Beets come in a range of hues, including the familiar deep red as well as purple, golden, and striped varieties. If you’re put off by red beets’ hallmark earthy flavor, you might prefer the sweeter golden beets. All types are rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants, as well as folate, vitamin C, potassium, and iron. They also deliver a dose of nitrates, which studies show may improve cardiorespiratory endurance, making beet juice a popular preworkout beverage.
Roast beets to intensify their naturally sweet flavor and to make them easier to peel. You can rub the skin off roasted beets using a paper towel or while wearing a pair of gloves to avoid staining your hands. Enjoy cubed roasted beets on their own or pickle them after cooking to add to grain bowls and sandwiches. Small beets can be grated raw to add a crunchy, slightly bitter note to salads or slaws.
This originally appeared as “Beets” in the November 2020 print issue of Experience Life.