The ancient Greeks ate the leaf but offered up the root to their sun god. No prizes either if you guessed ahead, like so many other vegetables the Romans believed it was an aphrodisiac. Honestly, I have no idea how they found the time to amass an empire. Must have been off conquering during winter, when it’s tougher to get your 5 plus a day. They were right this time, beets are a good source of tryptophane, betaine and boron, which affect mood and sex hormones in both men and women.
Not just an aphrodisiac, beetroot offered other medicinal properties in many cultures, such as a cure to constipation. Fingers crossed you don’t experience both effects at the same time.
I can attest to the later. Beetroot has been touted as an excellent fuel for endurance athletes due to its high levels of nitrates which help with efficient oxygen absorption. I tested the theory for running. Let’s just say, the run did not end well.
It is a Super food though, not just because you can eat it from leaf to root. It will be the superest of super foods if it can truly cure a hangover, as some say. Maybe I’ll trade the tomato juice out of my next bloody Mary and we’ll get it sorted asap. Gastrointestinal turmoil be damned!
Beetroot is low in calories and rich in fiber, folate, manganese, potassium, iron and vitamin C. They have a high sugar content, but are relatively low on the glycaemic index. They help reduce blood pressure, aid in the production of red blood cells and the iron content is great for maintaining healthy haemoglobin levels. It has anti-ageing properties and helps with healthy skin and hair. It is also believed to inhibit cancer cell mutation and strengthen the digestive system. Beets are a rich source of betalains, which have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Sounds super to me!
Barrack Obama famously loves broccoli, while Michelle Obama hates beets. So much so, she requested they not be grown in the white house garden. Their polarizing taste - much like how many people don’t like coriander - is due to the chemical geosmin.
Beetroot is related to swiss chard, spinach, quinoa and mangelwurzel. Yeah. That’s right. Mangelwurzel. I didn’t make that last one up, just checking you’re still paying attention.
To store: Trim the leaves, leaving a little stem. Store the leaves in a loose bag in the vege drawer. Store the beetroots unwashed, in a bag in the crisper bin of your refrigerator. 3 – 6 weeks.
To prep: Just before cooking, scrub the beetroots well. If your recipe calls for raw beetroot, peel your beets, then grate or cut them accordingly. To remove the skins, you can roast them in tin foil or boil them, and the peels will slip right off.
To freeze: Boil or bake beetroot until softened. Cool them in ice water or let them come to room temperature. Remove peels. Trim the beetroot into 1cm slices or keep them whole (if they are small). Place in freezer bag and remove as much air as possible. Seal and freeze. 6 – 8 months.
Bortsch: Eastern European beet and cabbage soup.
Pachadi: South Indian beetroot side dish or chutney.
Salată de sfeclă is a Romanian salad. Beets are boiled, then grated or diced then mixed with horseradish, oil, vinegar mustard seeds and cumin.
Pkhali is a Georgian dish of many leaves, including beets shaped into balls and crumbed in pomegranate seed.
Pantzarosalata: A Greek dish served with yoghurt, walnuts and garlic, whole or pureed.
Buryachky: Known colloquially as Ukrainian wasabi, it is a condiment of horseradish and beets.