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what you need to know

Root Source: Beet



what you should know


If it's ugly, the old produce adage goes, it must be good. Nothing proves this so convincingly as the subsoil family of dark taproots, homeliest among them the beet.


The beet may not be much to look at on the outside, but what really defines it is the sweetness of its flesh, which is usually a vibrant red, yellow or orange.


Its high sugar content and hardiness have made it a fiber-rich workhorse in northern climates such as the Ukraine, whose national dish is the beet-based soup called borscht. (The family of America's most famous beet farmer, Dwight Schrute, came from Germany.)


keep the beet Stay away from beets that are soft or that have wet or bruised spots. You want smooth, firm beets. In the refrigerator, they'll keep for a month or so. Before cooking, gently scrub the beets. To prevent them from "bleeding," wait until after you've cooked and let them cool a little before you peel them.


it's chard When you can, buy beets with the tops still attached. When you get them home, lop off all but a half inch or so of the greens and store them separately. Cook the greens just like you would chard, which is actually a beet that's been bred as a leaf vegetable.


what you need


Peeling with the OXO 7" Good Grips swivel peeler is like writing with your favorite pen. With its thick grip, you can get an easy peel that doesn't maul the beet. (It won't keep your hands from staining pink, though. If soap doesn't get it out, try lemon juice.)


In her book Chez Panisse Vegetables, Alice Waters lets beets and other roots shine with as little embellishment as possible. We endorse this.

For borscht, you've got to have a good loaf of locally made bread. Slice it, toast it and drizzle it with butter or oil. Or just tear a chunk off for sopping.

what you do

You can do no wrong by simply roasting beets. (Wrapping or covering them in foil makes them easier to peel). While they're still warm, peel and toss them with quality vinegar. Waters insists that the vinegar highlights the sweetness of the beets. We agree.

That sweetness is the perfect canvas for playing around with contrasting flavors. Grate raw beets and toss them in a salad with frisee, walnuts and creamy fresh goat cheese.

Depending on where you find yourself in the world, borscht (or barszcz or bartsch or bors) can range from a cold, light broth to a hot, meaty stew. Here's a delicious but simple vegetarian borscht.

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