Get To Know The Beautiful Beet

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly versionSend by emailSend by email

beets


Beets are one of the most versatile vegetables on the planet. You can use their vibrant purple-red color to dye clothing. It’s also used to intensify the coloring of many processed foods like candy, sauces, and baked goods. The root and leaves are also consumed in a variety of ways and the pulp is fed to livestock and horses.

What Is It?

The beet is a root vegetable and a perennial plant. That means the fleshy part that is commonly eaten in soups, stews, and pickled is the root of the plant. The leafy greens can also be eaten. They’re a little bitter, however. They’re commonly sautéed and served as a side dish. The sugar beet is cultivated and used to create a sweetener as well.

History

The beet is one of the oldest vegetables. Historians trace cultivation of the beet back to the Mediterranean in 2000 BC. Around 800BC they’ve found evidence of cultivation from Babylonia to China. The Sugar Beet became wildly popular in the 19th century in Europe because of the ability to produce sucrose. It is a less expensive alternative to sugar cane which is a tropical plant.

Health Benefits

Beets contain a unique ingredient called betalains. It’s a phytonutrient, which means that it is a plant based nutrient that has been shown to improve human health. The particular phytonutrients found in beets are antioxidants. They are also anti-inflammatory nutrients and help your body detoxify. Unfortunately, the more you cook a beet, or the greens, the fewer nutrients you receive.

Fun Facts

If you eat a lot of beets you might notice that your urine is pink. This is because of the red pigment of the beet. If that’s not interesting enough, the ancient Romans believed that beet juice was an aphrodisiac. Napoleon was a huge fan of the sugar beet and actually opened schools to study the sugar beet and designated land to be used to cultivate it. (Source: Cambridge University Press - Agricultural Plants - By Reinhart Hugo Michael Langer, R. H. M. Langer, G. D. Hill Pg. 198)

How to Eat

Because so much of the beet plant is edible, from the round reddish root we’re all familiar with, to the dark leafy greens, there are a number of ways to enjoy it. The greens can be prepared and consumed any way you might consume spinach or collard greens. You can eat them in a salad or sauté them and serve as a side dish. The greens are great in soups and stews too. The root vegetable can be roasted. They taste sweet and earthy.

You can pickle them too – this is a fun way to enjoy beets. You can sprinkle pickled beets on salads. And if you enjoy soups and stews, try making Borscht. It’s a popular European soup that features the beautiful beet.