Commonly known as the garden beet, this firm, round root vegetable has leafy green tops, which are also edible and highly nutritious. The most common color for beets (called "beetroots" in the British Isles) is a garnet red. However, they can range in color from deep red to white, the most intriguing being the Chioggia (also called "candy cane"), with its concentric rings of red and white. Beets are available year-round and should be chosen by their firmness and smooth skins. Small or medium beets are generally more tender than large ones. If the beet greens are attached they should be crisp and bright. Because they leach moisture from the bulb, greens should be removed as soon as you get them home. Leave about 1 inch of the stem attached to prevent loss of nutrients and color during cooking. Store beets in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. Just before cooking, wash beets gently so as not to pierce the thin skin, which could cause nutrient and color loss. Peel beets after they've been cooked. In addition to the garden beet are the spinach or leaf beet (better known as Swiss chard), the sugar beet (a major source of sugar) and the mangold (used as fodder).
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.
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