Southerners Love Candy Cane Beets

Plain on the outside, pretty on the inside.

Have you ever cooked candy cane beets? If you haven't, it's probably because you walked right past them at the grocery store or farmers' market without noticing them. With their dusty red skins, they don't look like much from the outside and can be easily mistaken for regular red beets. But slice into a candy cane beet (also known as candy stripe beets, or Chioggia beets—named after the Italian town where they originated) and you'll smile like a kid at Christmas. True to its name, you'll find cheerful, bright rings of red (or pink) and white hidden inside—just like a peppermint.

If you like the flavor of beets, you'll love this heirloom beet variety, which is earthy and sweet—some people say they're a bit sweeter than common red or yellow beets. When served raw, candy cane beets make a delightful addition to fresh salads. And just like regular red or yellow beets, they can also be boiled, steamed, roasted, sautéed, and pickled. And don't skip the tasty greens—you can eat them too.

While candy cane beets won't stain your hands (and clothes, and cutting board…) as much as red beets, they tend to lose their colorful stripes once they have been cooked. Some cooks say that adding a splash of something acidic, like vinegar or lemon juice, to the cooking liquid will help preserve their color somewhat. We have found that that isn't always the case and depends on the beets and the preparation method.

The next time you spy bunches of fresh beets wherever you buy produce, stop and check to see if any are labeled as candy cane beets. (Or, better yet, ask your local farmer.) If so, use them to add an instant dose of surprising color and flavor to your next meal.

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