The modest beet boasts many, many health benefits. They are high in potassium and fiber, yet low in calories. Their edible leaves contain protein, calcium, fiber, beta-carotene as well as vitamins A and C. Beets are also known for their natural healing powers, and there are many people who use beet juice regularly to cleanse their blood and their livers.
Beets can be eaten raw, boiled, steamed, sauteed or roasted, which is my personal favorite. Roasting beets whole with their skins on seems to bring out their natural sweetness. After roasting, you can peel them and slice them into your recipes. They are wonderful tossed with a bit of butter or olive oil and salt, and also go splendidly with goat cheese in a salad (an amazing combo).
One thing to keep in mind is that they do stain or “bleed,” but cutting boards can be cleaned with a little bleach and water. A helpful hint to minimize staining is to wash and boil them whole and unpeeled. Once they soften from boiling you can let them cool, cut off the stem and root ends and rub off the skin. Now they are ready for slicing, chopping or grating with less mess from the bleeding.
Beet greens are edible too, but at the moment you will be getting your beets without the tops. Our beets have been invaded by leaf miner, an insect that in its larval stage mines its way between the leaf membranes (it’s the same insect that is damaging our chard). Later in the season we may get beets with their greens, and when we do, don’t throw away the green tops—they can be used like any other leafy green but will shrink considerably when cooked.