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Name Variations Edit
About Beet Edit
Wikipedia Article About Beet on Wikipedia
The Beet (Beta vulgaris) is a flowering plant in the family Amaranthaceae, native to the coasts of western and southern Europe, from southern Sweden and the British Isles south to the Mediterranean Sea.
It is a herbaceous biennial or perennial plant with leafy stems growing to 1-2 m tall. The leaves are heart-shaped, 5-20 cm long on wild plants (often much larger in cultivated plants). The flowers are produced in dense spikes, each flower very small, 3-5 mm diameter, green or tinged reddish, with five petals; they are wind-pollinated. The fruit is a cluster of hard nutlets.
The cultivated forms are thought to have come from sea-coast plants of Europe and Asia. With the imposition of the blockade of the continent during the Napoleonic wars there was an impetus to develop beet for their sugar content. The white Silesian beet, which was a fodder crop, received attention.
Beets used to be only found in salad bars in canned form, and on European menus, but with the culinary winds changing, this root is now commonly seen in stateside grocery stores everywhere. This root vegetable like its turnip cousin has two parts — the edible root and the edible green leaves.
There are too many varieties to list here, but with more than one type of beet to choose from, why not try one of each if you get the chance. This versatile vegetable can be eaten raw, baked, steamed, pickled, and served as a condiment or alongside soups and entrees.
Availability, Selection, Storage, and Preparation Edit
Beets are available year-round because they thrive in more than 30 states with June through October being their peak season. These roots come in all shapes, sizes, and colors so try a variety to find your favorite.
Young beets, about an inch and a ½-inch diameter are fine textured, tender, and excellent in salads. Medium and large size beets are good for cooking; very large roots are too woody for eating regardless of cooking method. Which ever size of beets you choose, look for smooth, hard, uniformly round beets that are free of cuts and bruises.
It’s best to store beets that have their tops chopped off in individual plastic bags in the coolest part of the refrigerator. These should last up to one week. The greens should be eaten as soon as possible.
Wash and scrub the beets before cooking. Beets peel best after cooking, so be sure to wear disposable gloves to minimize red stains on hands.
- Vegetable of the Month: Root Vegetables by the Centers for Disease Control, public domain government resource—original source of article