Baby beets are beets harvested just as they have started to round out. Leave these beets until they mature and you can call them table beets.
Baby beets—just about the size of a ping-pong ball—have the most delicate taste and texture. Table beets—as big as your fist—still taste good, but don’t let them grow much larger as their flavor will be sacrificed to size.
Choose baby beets for the crudité platter or for pickling to use as a condiment or salad addition. Opt for table beets if you plan to grate the beets for relish or to add textural interest to a salad or salsa; they’ll be easier to handle.
When it comes to color golden or yellow beets are not as sweet and mild as red beets, but they won’t bleed onto your other ingredients, your work surface or hands.
You can capture the sweetness of baby beets by steaming or baking or pickling.
Steaming. Steam baby beats in a steamer rack over 1 to 2 inches of boiling water. Aromatize the water with orange peel, anise or fennel seeds, cardamom, cinnamon stick, tarragon, marjoram, or thyme. Cover and cook until fork tender about 10 minutes or less.
Baking. There are at least two ways to bake baby beets (baking beets will preserve their flavor and enhance their color):
• Wrap each individually in heavy-duty foil to minimize staining. Place on oven rack in 375ºF oven; bake until tender when pierced, about 40 minutes or less.
• Place several beets in a baking dish with a tight-fitting lid and 4 to 5 tablespoons of water. Place a double layer of foil over the dish before covering and then bake in a low oven for 2 to 3 hours or until tender.
Pickling. Cook the beets (a dozen or so baby beets) in boiling water for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until tender. Cool; rub off the skins. Combine 1 cup red wine, 1 cup vinegar, ½ cup sugar in a medium saucepan. Tie the following spices in a piece of cheesecloth: sliced shallots, cloves, cinnamon stick, anise seeds, and peppercorns. Place the spice bag in the saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the beets and bring to a boil. Cool, then chill in liquid.