Ah, beets. These hearty roots are versatile, beautiful, and delicious! Beet cultivation, like that of turnips, goes way back to ancient times - domesticated somewhere around the Mediterranean. Of course this was the leafy variety...little did I know that beets are actually the same species as chard, just bred for root rather than greens. According to my reliable reference, Wikipedia, the beet encompasses uses from your common table beet to fodder and sugar. As far as the kind of beet you would eat, they come in all sorts of varieties - candy cane and golden beets hold a particularly fond place in my heart.
These lovely little gems in gold and ruby make for excellent sides and main courses. The golden beet and blood orange salad I made the other night was a slightly downplayed version of Heidi Swanson's Roasted Beet and Blood Orange Salad and looked lovely.
Beets are also excellent incorporated into cakes, as they provide moisture and, if using Bull's Blood or other deeply colored roots, a rich color. Beet greens can be used like chard, understandable, as they are related. As an ancient Babylonian veggie, it is of no surprise that an excellent compliment is the luscious pomegranate. And, of course, beets are always excellent doused in olive oil and sea salt and roasted for an hour in the oven.