Beets (“beta vulgaris” or common beet in Latin) are a kind of plant that were endemic to the Mediterranean but now flourish in several parts of the globe. They are quite easy to cultivate since they adapt well to different environments, except those that have extreme hot or cold temperatures. Today, people can also buy canned beets in the supermarkets or even the farmer’s markets.
Both the fleshy root of the beet and the beet greens can be eaten. Beet greens are sometimes called Swiss Chard or leaf beets. Beets are also used in decorative gardens because the stems and leaves are quite beautiful.
Beets have been grown for food source for several centuries. In fact, several varieties have been developed, including the bright orange “golden beet” and the beautiful “candy cane” beat or Chioggia, so named because of its colorful stripes of red and white.
Beets can be served in a number of ways. They can be grilled and baked, roasted or boiled. Sometimes the beets are picked and then tossed into a salad. The leaves or chards are also used in a variety of recipes, from the typical salad to dainty quiches. As with all ingredients, it is crucial to pick high quality and fresh beets. Avoid those that are slimy and discolored. Once bought, pick off the leaves of the beet and store separately from the root.
Beets can be grown at home, from beet seeds. They are best planted at the end of the winter frost. They need a minimal amount of water, or just one inch or 2.54 centimeters a week.