Tiny treats: 'Baby Ball' offers perfectly rounded, petite crimson beets with fine tips; mellow, sweet taste; and delicious, healthful greens. Early to harvest, it matures in about 50 days. Pick at baby size.
Cold-tolerant: 'Bull's Blood' is an heirloom with gorgeous dark maroon-red leaves that provide a great splash of color for salads. It produces a tasty beet when harvested young (2 to 3 inches), and is extremely cold-hardy. Try this beet in your flower border—the wine-red leaves are highly ornamental and look great all summer. Matures in 35 to 40 days for greens; 55 to 60 days for roots.
Great for greens: 'Lutz Green Leaf' (sometimes sold as 'Winterkeeper') is an heirloom for fall harvest and winter storage. It grows large, with great-tasting green leaves. Its baseball-size, heart-shaped roots stay amazingly sweet and tender and store well through winter. Great for cooking. Matures in 70 days.
Short season: 'Early Wonder Tall Top' has maroon-tinged leaves and purplish red, flattop roots. Excellent for cooking. Matures in 50 to 60 days.
Variety pack: 'Jewel-Toned' is a blend of burgundy, golden, and candy-striped beets that's handy if you want to try them all.
Simply steamed. While many gardeners still like to preserve beets through traditional pickling and canning, Steve Peters, commercial seed manager at Seeds of Change in Santa Fe, says he prefers the natural earthy taste of the root. "Steamed with a bit of butter is perfect."
Asian style. "I like to stir-fry them or steam them with a little honey glaze," says Radish Bruce, of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange in Virginia. "Sometimes we eat them raw, shredded up in delicious spring rolls."
Paired with fruit. For a tasty salad, "combine sliced cooked beets, chopped apples, and toasted walnuts with fresh greens," suggests Renee Shepherd, owner of Renee's Garden Seeds in California. "Or you can roast them with orange, ginger, and a touch of tarragon."
Have your cake. If your family doesn't love beets, try them for dessert. Add freshly cooked, pureed beets to chocolate cake batter. This addition makes the cake extra-moist and creates a truly healthful treat.