Though fresh beets are generally in good supply, June through October are their peak months. At the start of the peak season you can find young beets with small, tender roots, suitable for cooking whole.
As the season goes on, the beets get larger and tougher. In the off-peak months, you may also find clip-topped beets that have been in storage, but these are less tender than freshly harvested beets.
Most beets in supermarkets are the familiar red beets. But these earthy root vegetables come in a variety of hues, including purple, pink, golden, white, and even striped beets.
The unusual beets listed below are mostly available at farmers’ markets and specialty food stores. Very small “baby” beets—radish-sized immature roots that have been pulled to thin the farmer’s rows—are a delicacy. Sold with the tender leaves attached, they may be found in early summer at farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and specialty greengrocers.
Chioggia beets: Though these look like ordinary beets from the outside, on the inside they have distinct red-and-white-striped flesh. For this reason, they are also referred to as Candy Cane beets. These heirloom Italian beets are highest on the sweetness scale.
Golden beets: Golden beets are carrot-colored and have the advantage of not bleeding once they’re cooked. They are mild in flavor and not as sweet as either Chioggia or red beets.
White beets: White beets look much like turnips and are not quite as sweet as either the red, striped, or golden varieties.