Beets have come a long way from their humble roots. Formerly considered fodder for peasants and farm animals, beets are now one of the latest food fads in the United States, where the colorful veggies are the darling of health gurus and modern chefs.
Beets have long been beloved in Central Europe, though, where they are made into cold salads, colorful soups, hot side dishes and pretty pickles. The most common kind are red beets, known as Rote Bete (Rote Beete) or Roterüben in German. But beets come in other colors, too: yellow (or golden), white and even red-and-white candy-striped (a special variety from Italy).
Both the roots and the leafy greens are edible. The roots can be baked, boiled or pickled; sliced, shredded, puréed or cubed. Baking beet roots, whole and unpeeled, is the best way to concentrate their deep, rich flavor. Served hot or cold, cooked beet roots pair well with butter, sour cream, and mayonnaise, as well as flavorings such as onions, horseradish, apples, prunes, bacon, vinegar, caraway seeds, chives and dill. And the green leaves, with their dark red veins, can be cooked and used the same way as spinach.