Cultivated beetroot (beets) may be as small as an orange, or as large as a grapefruit. Small to medium beets tend to be sweeter and more tender, and they come in a variety of colors, too – red, white, orange-yellow, even ones with pink and white stripes.
Beets are tasty cooked or raw, with grated raw and peeled beets excellent on top of salads or for making relish. When buying fresh beets, don’t overlook their leafy green tops, which can be stacked, then cut into half-inch slices for boiling, like spinach.
Most of the beet crops grown in this country are canned or pickled. Pickled beets, with their juice, are fun for coloring hard-boiled eggs, with plain canned beets, as some of you may remember, being the “surprise” ingredient in an ultra-moist and chocolaty vintage-recipe Bundt beet cake.
Red beets, or garden beets, are the most common kind of beets. For the purpose of the beet relish recipe here, red beets were used. While its vibrant color makes for a dramatic presentation, the magenta-colored juice they contain will stain everything with which it comes into contact. If your work surface stains easily, cover it with wax paper or some other kind of disposable material. In addition, if you opt not to wear rubber gloves when working with beets, you can remove the stains from your hands by rubbing them with a mixture of lemon juice and salt before washing them with soap and warm water. If the stains persist, repeat the process.
Seek beets with bright green leaves at the top and one to two inches of the root “tail” attached at the bottom. If the leaves have been trimmed, look for beets with about two inches of the stem remaining. Fresh beets are available all year long, but are at their peak now through October.