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The beet, sometimes called beetroot to distinguish it from the less-commonly-eaten leafy green upper part, is a root crop with an intense purple-red color similar to veinous blood. Beet juice is commonly used purely for coloring. Eating fresh (possibly cooked, but not canned) beets can cause one to produce red urine, making beets a tool for cruel jokes.

Beets may be pickled, but most beets are sold fresh (possibly peeled and pre-cooked) or canned. Beets are somewhat sweet, and not strongly flavored. Beets are usually sliced and served as a vegetable on one side of a plate. Beets are used in Eastern European soups.

Young beets, about an inch and a 1/2-inch diameter are fine textured, tender, and excellent in salads. Medium and large size beets are good for cooking; very large roots are too woody for eating regardless of cooking method. Which ever size of beets you choose, look for smooth, hard, uniformly round beets that are free of cuts and bruises.

Itís best to store beets that have their tops chopped off in individual plastic bags in the coolest part of the refrigerator. These should last up to one week. The greens should be eaten as soon as possible.

Wash and scrub the beets before cooking. Beets peel best after cooking, so wear gloves if you wish to avoid red stained hands.

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