BECAUSE IT’S IMPORTANT & BECAUSE THE RIVERSIDE FARMERS’ MARKET TOLD YOU TO
Beets are native to the Mediterranean. Although the leaves have been eaten since before written history, the beet root was generally used medicinally and did not become a popular food until French chefs recognized their potential in the 1800’s.
Selecting Beets: Choose beets that are small and firm with deep maroon coloring, unblemished skin, and bright green leaves with no sign of wilting. The taproot should still be attached. Avoid large beets which have a hairy taproot. All those tiny roots (hair) are an indication of age and toughness. Most beets that come to the market will be 1-1/2 to 2 inches in diameter. Any larger and they begin to grow a tough, woody center. Smaller beets will be sweeter and more tender.
Purchase fresh beets only if the leaf stems are still attached to insure ultimate freshness. Avoid beets with scales or spots.
To store beets: Trim the leaves 2 inches from the root as soon as you get them home. Do not trim the tail. Store the leaves in a separate plastic bag and use within two days. The root bulbs should also be bagged and can be stored in the refrigerator crisper drawer 7 to 10 days. Cooked or canned beets may be refrigerated up to one week. Fresh cooked beets may also be frozen up to ten months. Be sure to peel before freezing in airtight containers or baggies, leaving no air in the container. They may be frozen whole or in cut pieces.