The beetroot or beet is the taproot portion of the beet plant and is also known as table beet, red beet, golden beet or garden beet. All of these names are several cultivated varieties of Beta vulgaris which are grown for their edible taproots and leaves known as beet greens. Beetroot is classed as one of the most environmentally friendly crops as it rarely needs treatment with pesticides. Beets evolved from the wild seabeet which is possibly the reason why it was originally prized for its leaves and not for the roots. The beet leaves were used primarily for medicinal properties to cure problems such as a fever or constipation
The word “beet” is believed to of first been mentioned in an Assyrian text around 800BC. It was described as growing in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and being offered to Apollo, the sun god in the temple of Delphi by the Greeks. By the turn of the nineteenth century, beetroot was widely consumed across with English recipes suggesting pickling beetroot and Southern European and Mediterranean recipes using both the root and the greens.
Beetroot was used as a treatment for a variety of conditions in the Middle Ages in particular illnesses relating to blood and digestion. The Italian Renaissance humanist writer and gastronomist Bartolomeo Platina recommended eating beetroot with garlic to nullify “garlic-breath”. Other uses apart from medicinal purposes include using the root of a beet as a food colouring to improve the colour and flavour of sauces, desserts, jams, jellies, tomato paste, ice cream, sweets and breakfast cereals amongst others and of course as a source of food.
Eat the Beet.
Eaten boiled, raw or roasted beets can be eaten either alone or combined with any salad vegetable. Out of the wide colour varieties of beets, the deep purple or red beetroot is most commonly used for large scale commercial production and is processed into either; boiled and sterilised beets or into pickles. More adventurous cuisines include chopped, cooked and spiced beet which is a common side dish in India or a beet soup such as borscht popular in Eastern Europe. A Pennsylvanian Dutch dish is pickled beet egg- hard boiled eggs which have been refrigerated in liquid left over from boiling pickling beets which are marinated until the eggs turn deep pink-red in colour. An Aussie burger is beetroot combined with fried egg in addition to the usual beef patty and salad.
The leafy greens of the beet plant can also be consumed. Most commonly served steamed or boiled, the leaves have a texture and taste similar to spinach. Greens should be selected from bulbs which are unmarked and not with wrinkled skins or limp leaves which are signs the beet is dehydrated and will not have the full desired flavour.
Beetroot In Stock Now.
In our fridges at the moment we have some large raw red beets as well as the bright golden beet. Sliced thinly, the vibrant golden colour or deep purple/red colour livens up any summer day salad. Alternatively, the bunched beets available in red can be utilised for both the root and the leaves.
Other varieties of beetroot.
While most people are familiar with the traditional red, candy stripped (Chioggia) and golden beetroot varieties few will have seen some of the heritage varieties that we get from the Rungis Market. The Crapaudine Beetroot (roughly translated from French as Lady Toad), is a heritage variety with a deep purple flesh that is much sweeter than the traditional beet. In terms of appearance the Crapaudine’s shape can resemble that of a long carrot or a twisted lump.
The White Beetroot lacks the betalain pigments that give the traditional beet colour. They too have a sweeter less earthy flavour and a softer more tender texture. When these heritage varieties are in season alongside them we often see baby varieties. If you are tempted to add these beetroot to your menu please sign up to our Rungis mailing list to receive twice weekly updates.