Everybody knows that beets are colorful and healthy. But, many would be surprised to learn they are one of few foods that is entirely edible. It just takes some preparation and creativity to render each portion as delicious as the heart of the root or what we traditional think of as the “beet.”
Given how difficult it can be to peel a beet, it is good to know the peel is edible if scrubbed clean of dirt and fibrous threads. However, many people prefer the uniform texture of a peeled beet root. This can be a messy task so, unless you are serving the beet raw, such as grated over a salad, the best way to peel a beet is to cook it first. The peel should pull or rub off much more easily after cooking.
The root is what we traditionally think of as beet. To prevent them from bleeding their red color, leave 2 inches of stem when you cut them from the greens. Beets are dense and take a long time to cook. By using beets smaller than 2 inches and cutting them in quarters before boiling or roasting, you can greatly reduce the cooking time.
Beet leaves are often discarded, but they are completely edible. Only baby beets tend to have small, tender leaves suitable for salads. The greens that usually accompany beets are more suitable to cooking. After a thorough cleaning, they can be steamed or sautéed, much like Swiss chard.
If the stems are small and not too fibrous, they can be eaten together with the leaves, either raw or cooked. If the stems are too thick and fibrous, you will want to cut them away from the leaves and chop them before cooking. You will know if the stem is fibrous by breaking it in half. If it breaks clean, it is tender enough to eat without removing the stems. If fibers keep it from breaking apart, then you are best off cutting and chopping the stems