ATTRIBUTES: Virtually the entire beet plant is edible. Beet greens can used like their relatives, spinach and swiss chard. The root portion can be steamed, roasted or pickled.
SUPERPOWERS: Beet greens are a good source of lutein, a nutrient that protects your eyes. The red root portion is good source of the antioxidants anthocyanin and betalains, as well as folate, magnesium, copper and potassium.
WEAKNESS: "They taste like dirt." This is a common comment among those who choose not to eat beets. It may — or may not — help to know that the flavor is not actually the taste of dirt, but rather the compound geosmin, which is produced by microbes in the soil. Humans are very sensitive to geosmin, with the ability to detect 0.1 parts per billion of it. Some beet varieties — Detroit Dark Red and Crosby Green Top — are lower in geosmin than the commonly available Chioggia variety. You can try to mask geosmin by using dressings containing dark balsamic vinegar, mustard or horseradish.
HOW TO USE IT: New York Times food writer Martha Rose Shulman created this recipe filled with contrasting flavors. Add about 3 roasted, sliced beets to a salad containing 3½ cups arugula, 3 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon, 4 tablespoons chopped walnuts and one orange, sliced. Top with vinaigrette composed of 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar, a small clove of minced garlic, 1 tablespoon walnut oil, and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste!