Fresh beets are not edible if they feel soft. They can be left at room temperature for several days without spoiling, but it is best to separate the bulb from the leaves, place the bulb in a plastic bag and store it in the refrigerator immediately. Uncooked fresh beets keep for up to 10 days when refrigerated immediately.
Fresh beets are sold by the bunch and are freshest toward the end of summer. When choosing beets, opt for those with firm bulbs that have no signs of bruising. Smaller beets are typically sweeter and more tender, while larger beets have a tough texture. Green leaves indicate the beets are at the peak of freshness. If the beet's leaves are trimmed, purchase only those with stems 2 inches or more in length.
Prepare fresh beets by first trimming the greens to at least 1 inch and then gently washing the beets. Roast, boil, steam, grill or fry the beets whole. When fully cooked and cooled, peel and slice the beets. Serve them chopped or mashed. Leftovers should be refrigerated and are good for about one week.
Cooking red and pink beets stains wooden and plastic surfaces, as well as skin. Preparing beets on top of waxed paper is recommended. Wear gloves to protect your hands.