We have beets on the farm nearly year round; we plant them every two weeks from mid-April to early August. The last beets are pulled out of the ground in November and they store in crates stacked in the barn well into spring. We often harvest the last crop of beets from a light cover of snow.
Golden beets taste much the same as red, though they have subtle differences. Some say the red are sweeter.
Beets are a member of the Chenopedacea family, known by commoners as goosefoot, which also includes chard & spinach. According to The Oxford Companion to Food beets descend from “the sea beet, a wild seashore plant growing around the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts of Europe and N. Africa. This has only a small root but its leaves are sometimes eaten. By about 300 BC there were varieties with edible roots.” (Davidson 72).
Beets serve well hot or cold and need very little accoutrement to highlight their earthy sweetness. I generally boil them whole in the skin until a knife penetrates with ease, this can take up to an hour depending on the size of the beet. Once tender, drain, cool, and slip the skin. Cut into desired shape & serve with the finest olive oil in the cupboard or a bit of sweet butter and salt and pepper.
If you would like to bring beets to the center of a meal and make your dinner guests smother you in appreciative kisses and make toasts to your long life try:
Beets á la Béchamel
Béchamel sauce is quite easy and quick to prepare. It is a nice addition to your sauce skill-set and it is very rich and satisfying addition to many vegetables.
Boil beets until tender. Cool, drain, slip the skins, cut into desired chunks and set aside.
Béchamel - melt in a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat 2 Tbsp butter. Whisk in 2 Tbsp flour until well blended and smooth (about 1 ½ minutes). Remove the pan from the heat and slowly whisk in 1 cup of milk. Return the pan to the heat and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Continue cooking and whisking until the sauce is hot and thick and smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg (recipe adapted from the Joy of Cooking).
You can simply pour this over the beets and serve hot. Or preferably, place the beets in a small casserole pour the béchamel atop and bake until the béchamel browns ever so slightly. You may use the broiler to finish the browning, but take care not to burn your sauce.