Known for their earthy sweetness, beets have the highest sugar content of any vegetable. Nevertheless, they’re low in calories, high in fiber, and rich in iron; they’re also loaded with heart-healthy folic acid and the cancer-fighting antioxidant beta-carotene.
The leafy greens, which can stand in for their botanical cousin Swiss chard, are even more nutritious than the roots, with double the potassium, folic acid, calcium, and iron.
At farmers’ markets and gourmet grocers you’ll likely find golden, white, and striped beets — called Chioggia or Candy Cane — alongside the red ones. Look for bunches of firm beets with hearty greens. (Wilted tops don’t necessarily signal bad beets, but fresher greens mean more vegetable for your money.)
Unless you’re planning to chop or grate the beets, choose a uniform-size bunch so they’ll cook in the same amount of time. Leaving an inch of stem attached to the root, cut away the greens and refrigerate the beets and tops in separate plastic bags. Beets will last at least a month, but you should use the greens within three or four days.
BEETS PREPARATION TIPS
Cooking beets can be a messy business, but if you do it with their skins on, all those bright purple juices won’t leach out. It’s easy to slip the skins off once the beets are cooked and ready to eat. To roast beets, trim both ends. Drizzle them with olive oil and wrap in parchment-lined foil. Roast at 450 degrees until tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours, depending on their size. Let cool slightly, then rub off skins with paper towels.
Don’t forget the greens: Saute the chopped stems and leaves in oil with minced garlic, and voila, another side dish is born.