Beets are one of those vegetables that many people like to hate despite the fact that they are the vegetable with the highest sugar content. Red beets are the most common and lower priced variety, in addition to other more expensive types such as the white and golden beets and the Chioggia (candy cane) beet with red and white stripes. Why do we peel beets? There isn't a logical reason other than personal preference.
Reasons to peel beets
Like other root vegetables, beets have a tough exterior skin that protects the valuable and tasty interior. Some people love potatoes, but they always peel away the skin because they don't like the rough, chewy texture. If the vegetable isn't organic, others might worry that chemicals remain in the skin. Then there are people that forge ahead and wash the skin thoroughly and eat it along with the soft interior. Whether or not to peel beets falls into the same category as potatoes.
Reason not to peel beets
Beets are loaded with vital nutrients that aid cardiovascular health. They contain unique pigment antioxidants in their roots that have been found to protect your body against coronary artery disease and stroke, with the added benefits of lowering your cholesterol levels and offering anti-aging help. Similarly to a potato, if you remove the outer skin either before or after cooking you will peel away some of the beet's rich nutrient value.
Peel raw beets
When peeling raw red beets, be sure to wear gloves to prevent staining your fingers. Cut off the green tops if you don't plan to use them approximately an inch or two above the bulb. The reason you should leave a small amount of the green top is to help retain the beet's natural color during cooking and to prevent the beet from bleeding (leeching) liquid especially when boiled or steamed. A vegetable peeler works best to peel a raw beet.
Peel beets after cooking
Many people, who peel beets because they don't want to eat the skin, wait until after cooking. One of the reasons is because keeping the skin on helps to retain nutrients and moisture inside the beet during the cooking process. Others believe that beets are easier to peel after the skin has been softened. Allow the beets to cool before using either a sharp knife or a vegetable peeler.
Select fresh beets
Fresh beets should be firm to the touch, smooth-skinned and rich in color. Never buy beets with bruises, soft spots, appear shriveled or that show any indication that they have been sitting around too long and are on the verge of spoiling. Old vegetables will be tough and fibrous and not worth eating. Sometimes younger, smaller beets might be tender enough that peeling isn't necessary either before or after cooking.
Storing fresh beets
Never wash fresh beets before storing or they will deteriorate faster. Instead, place them in a sealed, plastic bag squeezing out as much of the air as possible from the bag. Refrigerate immediately and they should remain fresh for up to three weeks. You can do the same thing with beet greens but keep them in a separate bag. Greens will stay fresh in this condition for approximately four days.
Beets are another versatile root vegetable that can be eaten raw, baked, steamed or boiled. When you experiment making them with the peel on instead of peeling, you might be surprised that you like them "au natural" as well.