Beetroot Leaves Are Tasty
Beetroot leaves usually play second fiddle to the root part of the plant when it comes to discussions on how to prepare beets for the table or for canning. The beetroot leaves more often than not end up in the trash can, which is a shame, as they are very tasty and also are quite nutritious.
If one goes back a few centuries to when beets were collected in the wild and not yet commercially cultivated, people ate the leaves and discarded the roots. Later on, someone discovered the roots had a medicinal value, and the root part was no longer always discarded, though people still ate the beetroot leaves. At some point in time the root was found to be tasty, nutritious, and lent itself to many dishes, from salads to borsch. Somewhere along the line, people stopped eating the leaves almost entirely, to the point where many think of the leaves as something that might be barely edible, if edible at all.
Old Leaves Can Be Bitter, Newer Ones Are Sweeter - It probably doesn't help matters when some tell you beetroot leaves have a rather bitter taste, like Swiss chard. That's not too surprising, as the beetroot is a member of the chard family, as is spinach. The truth is, if beetroot leaves are harvested when quite young and fresh, they can be shredded and added to salads or cooked like spinach, and have a delicious somewhat sweet taste, not unlike spinach.
Very probably the only reasons people don't eat beetroot leaves more is one, they are used to spinach and have no real reason to change, and two, unless you grow your own beets, it's very difficult to find fresh beetroot leaves. Beets are sometimes sold on the market complete with foliage, but while the roots store fairly well, the leaves tend to deteriorate fairly quickly. Leaves purchased yesterday, even if kept in the refrigerator, lose some of their taste and tend to become somewhat limp and unappealing. Unless prepared soon after harvesting, the leaves will have a tendency to get a little limp in any event, but if eaten the day they are harvested, the taste will not be adversely affected. Your best bet then is to grow your own beets, or convince a friend or someone in your family to do so, so that you might enjoy both tender beetroot leaves and the tender young roots themselves.
Prepare As You Would Spinach - Beetroot leaves somewhat resemble spinach, and if you've ever steamed or boiled spinach, you know that you don't require a large kettle to cook a couple of pounds, as they cook away to almost nothing. It's the same way with the leaves of the beet. A little water in a fairly small pot is usually all that is needed, and like spinach, the final result is usually better tasting and more nutritious if the leaves are steamed rather than boiled. You can boil beetroot leaves. Just don't let them cook too long.
Beetroot Leaves Are Highly Nutritious - Insofar as nutrition is concerned, the beet is well known as being one of the healthier vegetables, and is also well-known for its ability to stain everything red it comes into contact with when preparing the root. The leaves for the most part won't stain hands red (the long stalks might, but should be removed, or make pink pee, but are as nutritious as are the roots. Beetroot leaves are rich in iron, richer in iron than spinach for that matter, and are also an excellent source of calcium, copper, phosphorus, and magnesium. Even the larger leaves are tasty and nutritious if prepared while still quite fresh. It's simply that the smaller, tender leaves are even better.