Full of sweetness and saturated color, beets become tender and full-flavored when cooked—an ideal ingredient for salads, side dishes, and soups. And although we think of beets mainly as root vegetables, in truth, the whole plant is edible. You can use the small, tender leaves raw in salads, and sauté, or braise the larger leaves as you would Swiss chard or kale. While most of us are familiar with red-purple beets, there are also golden and striped beets (the latter known as Chioggia beets), as well as white ones. Your best bet for finding such varieties is at the farmer's market. Baby beets are beets harvested when young. These tiny beets will cook more quickly.
Look for smooth skins and tails that aren't too shaggy. If the greens are attached, that's a good sign of freshness in general, but look specifically for the bunch with the brightest and greenest leaves.
Leave beets whole and unpeeled when boiling or steaming to retain their juices. After they're cooked, the skins rub off easily with a paper towel. For roasting, peel and cut them first so they get nice and browned. Consider wearing plastic gloves when handling beets, especially cooked ones, as their juices can stain hands, as well as dish towels, cutting boards, and counters.
Kept in a cool place, beets will last for weeks. Store both roots and leaves in a loosely closed plastic bag in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.