How to Cook Fresh Beets


I don’t know why, but nobody knows how to cook fresh beets anymore.  I learned from my mom and grandma.  Fresh beets are delicious; canned beets should only be used for pickling. Ancient civilizations used beet juice to dye things.  Be careful.  That stuff will make permanent stains.

Small beets are sweeter than large beets, which can taste kind of bitter.

  • Keep uncooked beets in the refrigerator and they’ll last for weeks.
  • To cook, cut off most of the beets tops, or greens.  (Beet greens are edible and good, I’m told, but I’ve never gotten around to cooking them.  See somebody else for that.)
  • Cover the beets with water and bring to a boil—no need to wash them because they’re going to boil clean.
  • Put a lid on the pan to keep the juice from splashing (this is why mom and grandma wore aprons.).
  • Turn the heat down and simmer for a while.  Beets are a root vegetable, like carrots and potatoes, which means they are hard and will take a while to cook.
  • Every once in a while, stick a fork into a beet.  When the beet easily slides off the fork, it’s done.
  • Make sure the sink is empty, then turn on the cold-water tap.
  • Spear a beet with a fork, then hold it under the running water and squeeze off the skin and top!
  • It’s really fun.  It’s called “blanching” and the skin comes right off.  (And the soil stays in the bottom of the pan you boiled the beets in.)  (And your sink will be full of beet garbage.)
  • When the beets are cool, dice ’em or slice ’em.
  • Serve them with butter, salt and pepper, or just plain.

Things the doctor doesn’t know:  when you poop the next day, don’t be scared.  The beet juice turns feces dark reddish-brown, and you can panic and think you’re hemorrhaging internally.  You’re not.  You’re just eating fresh beets.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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2 Responses to How to Cook Fresh Beets

  1. nancy balzer says:

    Thank you very much.We grew beets for the first time and they finally were ready to pull.Now I know what to do with them. cant wait to eat.

    • annecwoodlen says:

      This practical, down to earth, note of appreciation has arrived in the middle of a life and death crisis. You have no idea how grateful I am to be reminded of the simple joys of things like eating fresh beets. Sometimes I worry too much.

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