Beetroot

Sweet, succulent and adaptable, beetroot ( a member of the spinach family) adds colour and vibrant flavour to dishes.  Mature leaves can be eaten in the same way as spinach.  Beetroot contains antioxidants and is a good source of the B-group vitamin, folate.

Storage: Although they're best used fresh, uncooked beets can keep for about 10 days in the fridge - trim the leafy tops to about 3cm above the bulb to help prolong its storage life.  Ensure any spillage is cleaned up straight away as this could cause staining.

General Use: When cooking beets cook it whole, after snipping off the stalks.  Wash the beet under cold water before cooking, don't pierce the skin and resist the urge to top and tail like carrots.  Apart from the staining this would cause, the beet would also lose its flavour.

Raw: Prepare beets by cutting off the tops and then peeling with a potato peeler.  Beets can be grated, tossed with a little orange juice and eaten raw.  The pigment in beets is light-sensitive and will turn brown on exposure to light, so use it up quickly.

Boiled / Steamed: Beets can be boiled or steamed for 20-60 minutes depending on size.  Beets are cooked when they can be pierced easily with a skewer.  Allow to cool and then the skin will slip easily off.

Baked: Wash the beets, trim the stalk and wrap each beetroot separately in foil.  Place in a moderate oven for about 40 minutes (for small beets), then serve with seasonal vegetables. Large beets, up to about a kilo in weight, can take up to 4 hours to bake.

Puréed: Reduce the beet to mush and add to home-made baby food, mashed potato, soups and vegetable smoothies.

Pickled: This is a common way of using and storing beets.  Once the sealed jar is opened, the beets will start to turn brown so the contents should be used up as soon as possible.

Leaves: Don't throw away the beetroot stalks and leaves, they are nutritious and should be treated in the same way as spinach. The greens have nutritional value, containing folate, iron, potassium and some vitamin C.  Chop up finely and add to quiches, curries and stir-fries, or mix with onion and garlic and serve as a dip.