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Good Gardening - Get down with these sick beets

Some beets.

I have a lot of favorite vegetables, but if I had to pick one today, it would be beets - partly because my winter beets survived the long chill just fine, while many other greens turned brown - and slimy.  And if you think beets are always pickled, and out of a can, there's a lot more to them.

Beets are incredibly versatile, but are also in the top two or three of vegetables some people don't like. Today we'll talk about using every bit of the beet, and serving them in ways that will please almost everybody's palette. The earthy taste - from geosmin - is part of the appeal beets have to those who love them. But if you don't like the beet taste, recipes and varieties can make all the difference. 

The earthy taste is hidden by salt, sugar and vinegar - hence pickled beets, and borscht.  But eating baby beets, and roasting the larger ones brings out the sweetness inherent in the vegetable and greatly decreases their bitterness. Yellow and white beets are much milder, and candy cane beets are in between the deep red and lighter varieties in taste.  

When you cook beets, by either roasting or boiling, leave an inch of stem on them, save the leaves, and cook the beets until they are easily pierced by a knife. The skins and stem tops will slip right off after the beets have cooled. Save the water you boiled the beets in to make bread, pancakes, and waffles - or fake blood around Halloween.  

The leaves make a fine steamed green - use them like kale or chard, and raw, they make a great addition to salads any time of the year. Grating raw beets of any variety into a salad adds flavor and color.  

The only things left over now are the stems.

John Fischer is a Master Gardener and Master Recycler and the host of KLCC's Good Gardening and Living Less Unsustainably.