About Beets

Did you know the ancient Romans were one of the first civilizations to cultivate beets to use their roots as food? Before then, people exclusively ate the beet greens, and not the roots. Beets are a part of the chenopod family, along with spinach and swiss chard. Although typically a beautiful reddish-purple hue, beets also come in varieties that feature white, golden/yellow or even striped roots. Raw beet roots have a crunchy texture that turns soft and buttery when they are cooked. Beet leaves have a lively, bitter taste similar to chard.

How do you know when they are ready to harvest? 
Similar to radishes or carrots, you will notice that the greens are several inches tall and that is a sign that your beets are getting close to harvest. You can gently brush back the soil around the root to see how wide it is. Roots can be harvested when they reach an inch in diameter, but they remain tender until they measure 3 or 4 inches. Many people prefer the taste of younger, smaller beets as they are sweeter and softer. Choose small or medium-sized beets whose roots are firm, smooth-skinned and deep in color. If you prefer baby greens, the greens can be picked and used in salads when they are just an inch or two high.

How do you store them?
Cut off the tops and store the greens separate from the roots. Leaving the greens on root vegetables draws excess moisture from the root, causing them to lose flavor and firmness. Make sure to leave an inch or two of the stems intact, though, to keep them from bleeding. Wrap the greens in a damp paper towel in an open plastic bag (save your produce bags from the grocery store- they work great!), and store the roots loosely in the crisper drawer of the fridge. Beets should last about a week stored this way, unwashed.

How do you cook them?
One thing you need to remember when handling dark red varieties of beets, is that they will stain your hands so make sure to wear gloves. If your hands do become stained during the cleaning and cooking process, don’t fret. Simply rub some lemon juice on them to remove the stain. The same can be done for your cutting board.

Wash beet greens in cold water and cook as you would spinach or swiss chard. Young beet greens can also be eaten raw in salads.

Gently scrub beet roots to remove dirt. Young beets can be eaten with the skin on, since it is still tender. Matured beets will need to be peeled with a vegetable peeler, similar to carrots. The roots can be eaten raw (try grating them into salads), or cooked. About 8% of the beet is sugar, which is a lot for a vegetable, and roasting, grilling, baking, or boiling them brings out their natural sweetness. Their earthiness pairs well with other root vegetables too, such as onions, carrots, potatoes, and celery root. Try roasting your favorite root veggies together in some olive oil, rosemary, lemon juice, salt and pepper for a nice hearty side dish.

If you have an excess of beets, you can preserve them by pickling or freezing. Raw beets do not freeze well since they tend to become soft upon thawing, so you’ll need to cook them first to retain their flavor and texture.


Beets are great to incorporate into your diet as they are low in calories and have many healthful benefits. Did you know that the red color is also used in some food coloring?  One cup of beets contains only 58 calories and 13g of carbohydrates( which is one whole serving of carbohydrates).  Beets are also low in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol. They are a good source of Vitamin C, Iron, Magnesium, Dietary Fiber, Folate and Potassium. Preferably try roasting, shredding, or adding them to your salad to give it a boost of color and nutrition.

– Ariana Ortiz, Swedish Covenant Hospital Dietician


Roasted Beets
Serves 6-8

3# beets, washed, trimmed, and cut into quarters (save greens for another use)
1/3 cup melted butter or olive oil
2 cloves garlic, pressed or chopped
½ tsp. each: rosemary, savory, marjoram, or whatever combination of herbs you like
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a 9”x13” baking pan, combine beets, butter or oil, garlic, and herbs. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 1 hour, stirring occasionally, until tender when pricked with a fork. Remove from oven and serve immediately. This recipe also works well with a mixture of half beets, half new potatoes.

Recipe source: Kirsten Sauer, Just Food