How could I go past the B vegetables without including beetroot, one of the summer favourites in our house. Many years ago I always cooked beetroot before peeling, slicing and adding vinegar, sugar etc. These days I simply buy the baby beets in tins and find they are quite delicious. We have them nearly every day right through summer with our salads. I am so glad I included this vegetable as I have learned so much about it today (thank you Wikipedia and yes, it is time I gave a small donation to them as they supply so much information. Occasionally they can be incorrect but on the whole I find them very reliable).
BEETROOT: The beetroot is the taproot portion of the beet plant, also known in North America as the table beet, garden beet, red or golden beet, or informally simply as the beet. It is several of the cultivated varieties of beet (Beta vulgaris) grown for their edible taproots and their green. These varieties have been classified as Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris Conditiva Group.
Other than as a food, its uses include food colouring and as a medicinal plant. Many beet products are made from other Beta vulgaris varieties, particularly sugar beet.
The usually deep purple roots of beetroot are eaten either grilled, boiled, or roasted as a cooked vegetable, cold as a salad after cooking and adding oil and vinegar or raw and shredded, either alone or combined with any salad vegetable. A large proportion of the commercial production is processed into boiled and sterilised beets or into pickles. In Eastern Europe, beet soup, such a borscht, is a popular dish. In Indian cuisine, chopped, cooked, spiced beet is a common side dish. Yellow-coloured beetroot are grown on a very small scale for home consumption.
The green, leafy portion of the beet is also edible. (Note: I didn't know that). It is most commonly served boiled or steamed, in which case it has a taste and texture similar to spinach. Those selected should be bulbs that are unmarked, avoiding those with overly limp leaves or wrinkled skins, both of which are signs of dehydration.
Beetroot can be peeled, steamed. and then eaten warm with butter as a delicacy; cooked, pickled. and then eaten cold as a condiment; or peeled, shredded raw, and then eaten as a salad.
Pickled beets are a traditional food of the American South, and are often served on a hamburger in Australia, New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates. (I am not sure if I've had beetroot on hamburger but then it's many years since I had a hamburger.)
A traditional Pennsylvania Dutch dish is pickled beet egg. Hard-boiled eggs are refrigerated in the liquid left over from pickling beets and allowed to marinate until the eggs turn a deep pink-red colour.
In Poland, beet is combined with horseradish to form popular cwikla, which is traditionaly used with cold cuts and sandwiches, but often also added to a meal consisting of meat and potatoes.
When beet juice is used, it is most stable in foods with a low water content, such as frozen novelties and fruit fillings. (That certainly looks delicious, I wonder would I enjoy it?).
Betanins, obtained from the roots, are used industrially as red food colourants, e.g. to intensify the colour of tomato paste, sauces, desserts, jams and jellies, ice cream sweets and breakfast cereals. The red dye of beetroot may be used in ink and beetroot can also be used to make wine.
Food shortages in Europe following World War 1 caused great hardships, including cases of "mangelwurzel disease", as relief workers called it. It was a consequence of eating only beets.
Beetroot is an excellent source of folate and a good source of manganesium and contains betaines which may function to reduce the concentration of homocysteine, a homolog of the naturally occurring amino acid cysteine, High circulating levels of homocysteine may be harmful to blood vessels and thus contribute to the development of heart disease, stroke. or peripheral vascular disease. This hypothesis is controversial as it has not yet been established whether homocysteine itself is harmful or is just an indicator of increased risk of heart disease.
The red colour compound betanin is not broken down in the body, and in higher concentrations may temporarily cause urine and stools to assume a reddish colour; in the case of urine this is called beeturia. This effect may cause distress and concern due to the visual similarity to hematuria (blood in the urine) or blood in the stool, but is completely harmless and will subside once the food is out of the system. (Note: This has never happened to me so perhaps I don't eat beetroot in sufficient quantity for it have this effect. I am certainly glad that it doesn't affect me in this way).
From the Middle Ages, beetroot was used as a treatment for a variety of conditions, especially illnesses relating to digestion and the blood. *Bartolomeo Platina recommended taking beetroot with garlic to nullify the effects of 'garlic breath'.
*Bartolomeo Platina (1421-1481) was an Italian Renaissance humanist writer and gastronomist.