Updated: December 11, 2018

I believe that people are in one of two camps when it comes to beets. Either they've only been exposed to the slightly mushy, syrupy canned variety and can't stand them, or they love eating them at restaurants, but would never attempt them at home. Too messy and difficult, right? Messy? Yes. But that can be minimized. Difficult? Not at all.

Beyond their rich, earthy deliciousness, beets are also a nutritional powerhouse. Rich in iron, fiber, folic acid (important for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy heart), and potassium, they're an excellent way to boost the nutrition in a salad or pasta dish. And with just 75 calories a cup, they're especially nice when you're keeping an eye on calories.

If you've been hitting your local farmers market, you've probably seen lovely bunches of beets—some of them the size of softballs. Next time you're there, buy a bunch or two and use this simple technique to roast them. Whether you're dealing with red, golden, or striped beets, the method is the same.

1. Preheat your oven to 400º. Trim off the greens with a knife or kitchen shears. If you really feel like getting creative, save the greens for later.

2. Place the beets in a colander and rinse them like crazy under running water, using your hands to rub off any soil. They're grown in the dirt, so they tend to have a lot of grit on them.

3. Dry gently with a clean dishcloth or paper towels. Do not peel!

4. Place the beets on a large sheet of aluminum foil. Drizzle with a little olive oil and wrap the foil tightly around the beets. Place the foil on a baking sheet and bake for an hour, or until tender. If your beets are gigantic, you may need another 30 minutes.

5. Remove the beets from the oven, open the foil, and let them cool until you can handle them. Then, using a paper towel, rub the beets until the skin slides off. You can use your hands, but they will turn pink.

Now you can use the beets any way you want! Slice lengthwise and add to salads, or dice and toss with orecchiette. Or simply cut into quarters and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and top with a sprinkle of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. I love them served this way with a bit of feta or ricotta salata (a hard, dense, salty cheese) and some crusty whole-grain bread to sop up the beet juice.

Once you've cooked them, beets will keep for up to three days. Just wrap them in foil again and stick them in the fridge.

Now go on, beet it.

By Frances Largeman-Roth, RD