One of the most popular root vegetables is beets, the root of a plant whose greens are edible and delicious, too. Plentiful at this time of year, especially on the mainland when root vegetables are abundant, beets have been elevated from boiled and canned status to gourmet with new cooking techniques and varieties.
Salads of roasted red beets with goat cheese come to mind as the epitome of beet preparations of recent years. Golden or yellow beets have made their appearance as well as chioggia beets, the two-toned striped beets of Italian origin. Pickled, roasted, steamed, pureed or raw, beets are part of our contemporary tables.
When buying beets, it’s better to buy them with their tops so you can see how fresh it is — droopy greens indicate age. But beets hold up well when stored in the refrigerator. There’s no way to tell whether a beet is sweet except to eat it; knowing your beet grower can help you get fresh, sweet and firm beets.
Roasting beets is probably the best way to maximize their flavor and sweetness. Drizzle unpeeled beets with olive oil and wrap in foil. Place in a 350-degree oven for an hour or more; roast until easily pierced with a fork. Unwrap, cool and peel — the skins will slip off easily. Slice or cut into chunks. A drizzle of balsamic vinegar is always good. Prepare a big batch — cooked beets store well in the refrigerator, and they make a nice addition to a salad or any meal.
Hawaii food writer Joan Namkoong offers a weekly tidbit on fresh seasonal products, many of them locally grown. Look for “Fresh Tips” every Wednesday.