Crimson – that deep purpley red colour – is what we conjure up when we think of beetroot (beets to American readers!) but golden beets and candy-coloured striped beets and baby pink beets are becoming more popular as home gardeners and commercial growers try out new varieties.
You’ll most likely pay more for golden, pink and striped beets. That’s fine, prices will settle down once the novelty wears off, but for now, make sure you are not wasting your money.
Crimson beets will do all jobs, bake, boil, steam, pickle etc., but have a look at my pics. While golden beets look good after boiling and grating, my candy-coloured striped Chioggia (named after Chioggia in Italy) beetroot lose their pretty pink strips and turn a uniform blush pink. That’s okay if you want pink beetroot, but not if you were hoping to keep the stripes. Chioggia beetroot are pretty sliced exceedingly thinly (easily done on a mandolin) and served raw. Raw beetroot is very nutty, sweet and earthy tasting, and a little brightens a salad, but don’t let it dominate.
To prepare beetroot, wash under running water, scrubbing gently around the roots without nicking the skin. Put beetroot in a roomy saucepan, cover generously with cold water and bring to the boil. Lower heat, partially cover with a lid, and cook for about 30 minutes, until tender.
To test if beetroot are ready, lift one out of the water on a slotted spoon and rub your thumb over the skin with paper towels – if the skin wrinkles, it’s ready.
Drain and cool. Remove skin and roots then grate coarsely (food gloves will prevent purple fingers!).
Instead of cooking beetroot in water, cook them in the oven. Wash beetroot under running water as above, scrubbing gently around the roots without nicking the skin. Trim stalks, but not too close to the top of the beetroot. Wrap beetroot in tin foil and transfer to a shallow dish. Bake for about 45 minutes, until tender. Unwrap beetroot and cool before rubbing each one with paper towels and removing skin and root.
To serve beetroot raw, they must be very fresh. Peel, trim and slice finely.