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Beets—Simple Cooking

Beet root

Beet root

Harvest beets when the greens are 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) long and the roots are about 2 inches (2.5 cm) in diameter–1 inch for baby beets, up to 3 inches for mature beets. Large beets are not as tender or as flavorful as medium-size or smaller beets. A beetroot should be firm and deep colored.

Store unwashed beet roots in the refrigerator in an open plastic bag for up to 3 weeks—if they stay dry. Check for firmness as they age.

Cook beet greens like spinach. Cut the greens off as soon as possible otherwise they will draw nutrients and moisture out of the root.

Serve raw beets in a salad if finely grated. Add beets at the end of the salad making so that they don’t stain other ingredients.

Prep: To prevent red beets from excessive “bleeding” during cooking, wait to peel them until after cooking. Before cooking simply trim off the tops about 1 inch above the roots and wash carefully with a vegetable brush.

Boil beets by first removing the tops, stems, and greens; then simmer 15-20 minutes or until tender; plunge them into cold water so that they can be handled; drain and rub off the skin with your fingers under cold running water. You can then slice the beets or serve them whole.

Steam beets quickly; place beets in vegetable steamer over boiling water for 30-45 minutes or until they are easily pierced with a thin knife. Steaming will minimize bleeding and concentrate flavor.

Roast beets by wrapping them in foil after oiling the skin. Roast in a baking dish at 350-400°F (180-200°C) for 1-2 hours.

Bake beets in a buttered or oiled baking dish—set the beets in a single layer. Add ¼ inch water and cover the dish with lid or aluminum foil. Bake at 350°F (180°C) until tender 1 to 1½ hours.

Microwave 1 pound (.45 kg) trimmed beets in a microwaveable dish with ½ cup (120 ml) of water. Cover and cook until tender about 20 minutes.

Sauté beets with butter and little lemon juice (acidic lemon juice will hold the color).

Sauté beets greens with garlic and olive oil and serve as a side dish.


Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.


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