The tops of beets include the leaves and the stems of this vegetable, as Fig. 1 shows. They are at their best when the beets are very young or before the beets themselves have developed. Beet tops are not used so extensively as some greens, but they will be found to have a more agreeable flavor than many greens that are more popular. Beets are raised for the purpose of supplying greens by planting the seeds closely enough together to form a thick bed of leaves and then thinning them out before the beets have developed. A few may be allowed to remain and develop for use as beets. Young beets that are purchased with the tops on also furnish a source of beet tops as well as beets.
When beet tops are to be cooked, cut the stems into inch lengths and use them with the leaves. Proceed to clean and cook the greens. Season with salt and pepper and flavor with butter. Serve with something tart, such as vinegar or lemon.
The Whitehouse Cookbook, by Mrs. F.L. Gillette (Year 1887)