It’s hard not to fall head over heels for fresh beets. A far cry from their tinny canned cousins; fresh beetroot have an earthy, sweet flavour and a great reputation for being a nutritional all-star and detoxifier, and a potent aphrodisiac. What’s not to love?
No matter if they’re golden, pink-and-white stripped, white or good old purple, they add a striking pop of colour and crunch to salads, are rich and earthy when roasted, play well with goat’s cheese and hazelnuts, and can take your lunchtime sandwich to delicious new level when they’re pickled.
Beets are available all year-round, but they’re better when they’re young and at their most tender, so pop a few in your shopping basket today – and don’t miss a beet.
Read on for tips on buying, storing and using fresh beetroot in your cooking.
How to Buy
Look for firm, smooth, unblemished roots that are heavy for their size. If the greens are still attached, they should be brightly coloured with sturdy stems and un-wilted leaves.
Smaller roots are sweeter and more tender than mature ones – avoid roots that are larger than 6cm in diameter as they are more likely to have tough, woody cores that can be quite unpleasant to eat.
Fresh beets aren’t limited to the typical purple variety; keep an eye out for golden, white and candy-striped varieties.
How to Store
Because the leaves suck moisture from the root of the beet, it is best to remove the leaves from the roots before storing, leaving about 2cm of stem attached (this helps prevent the loss of colour and nutrients during cooking).
Store beets in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to three weeks; while the leaves should be used within a few days.
How to Cook
Fresh beetroot’s sweet, earthy flavours demand something fresh and acidic to bring balance and harmony to a dish. And that’s how it is often prepared, with the help of sharp vinegar dressings, pickling, yoghurt and sharp goat’s cheese.
A very versatile root, beetroot sings a happy tune when roasted, grated or sliced thinly, raw or boiled.
One of the easiest ways of preparing and cooking beets is to boil them. Simply, wash the beets gently to remove any dirt and grit, being careful not to tear the skins, then place in a saucepan of warm water. Bring the water to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 20-30 minutes until tender. To tell if the beetroot is cooked, rub it with your fingers; if the skin moves, then the beetroot is cooked.
An alternative method to boiling beets is to bake them in the oven. To do this, drizzle the beet with olive oil, a little salt, and any flavourings you like – such as cumin seeds and cinnamon, or rosemary and balsamic vinegar – wrap the beet up with aluminium foil and bake in the oven for 2-3 hours at 150°C. When cooked, slip of their skins, slice and dress them, still warm, with a sharp, bright vinegar dressing.
The leaves are also great to add to salads raw or steamed, stems and all, and dress with good olive oil, lemon juice and fresh herbs.
Ready to turn up the beet? It’s time to put your beetroot know-how into practice. Here are our favourite beetroot recipes:
Caraway Pickled Beetroot from Domaine Chandon
Lamb Backstrap with Warm Root Salad from Hotel Sorrento
Beetroot Ravioli with Burnt Butter, Poppy Seeds and Sage from Money Order Office