Fresh beetroot has an overstated colour with an understated flavour, making it perfect for salad or livening up a meal. Too often associated with harsh-tasting vinegary pickles, beetroot is best raw, roasted or lightly cooked.
DIFFERENT WAYS TO COOK BEETROOT
Experiment by cooking beetroot whole, trimming the stalks to about 3cm above the bulb. Don't bother peeling or trimming the tail - that way, the intense maroon colour won't be lost from the beetroot.
Baking or roasting develops beetroot's true flavour, and oven cooking is especially suited to larger bulbs.
This method is used by Sophie Grigson in this recipe for warm beetroot, pomegranate and feta salad and in this beetroot and halloumi salad.
Beetroot can also be boiled. Baby beetroot, which first appear in our markets in early June, are especially good treated this way.
Annabel Langbein uses this method in her couscous with beetroot and almonds.
Beetroot also works very well when served raw in salads. A popular method of preparing them is to use a mandolin slicer to cut very fine slices that add sophistication to your plate.
Angela Nilsen does this and then prepares the slices in salad dressing in this recipe for beetroot carpaccio.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Small beetroot, often known as baby beets, have a particularly delicate flavour.
Choose firm bulbs with fresh, green leafy tops. The stalks are pleasant to eat and can be cooked in the same way as spring greens or spinach.
If the skin is damaged, the colour bleeds out from the beetroot while it cooks - so do look for unblemished beets. It's best to steer clear of beetroot larger than 6cm in diameter - they may have a tough woody core.
Golden beetroot used to be popular in the nineteenth century, and is currently enjoying a revival in upmarket restaurants. It has a more subtle flavour than regular beets and doesn't leave any stains on fingers and chopping boards.
Although they're best used fresh, uncooked beetroot can keep for about 10 days in the fridge - trim the leafy tops to about 3cm above the bulb - this helps prolong its storage life.
Its sweet flavour and vibrant colour makes a natural match with tart ingredients such as oranges, apples and peppery horseradish.
You might want to wear protective gloves when handling cooked maroon beetroot, as the colour does stain.