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Beetroot

Beta vulgaris


Photo courtesy of Horticulture New Zealand

Description

An essential component of classic Kiwi burgers, beetroot is a vegetable many people either love or hate. Available in a variety of colours, it ranges from the usual deep scarlet to yellow, pink, and white.

As suggested by the name, beetroot is the root portion of the plant. Roasted or boiled, it has a sweet, nutty flavour. The leaves are also edible; baby leaves can be used raw in salads, while larger ones can be steamed and taste similar to spinach.

Rich in antioxidants and minerals such as vitamin C, beetroot has also been shown to have cardiovascular benefits, lowering blood pressure.

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History

The beetroot we know today evolved from the wild sea-beet, which is a native to coastlines from Britain to India and is the ancestor of all cultivated beet varieties. The Romans cooked it with honey and wine, and even used it in salads.

Centuries ago, it was used more as a medicine for ailments such as fever, constipation and skin problems. In the 16th century it gained popularity in Central and Eastern Europe, where it was cultivated from a long, carrot-like shape into the now-familiar bulbous shape. The Victorians enjoyed it for its vibrant colours, both on the plate and in the garden, and by World War II it was most commonly available pickled.

Uses

Fresh beetroot can be used as a standalone vegetable, or as a colouring ingredient. Add it to homemade chickpea hummus for a deep pink dip.

Beetroot is excellent roasted – tossed with feta, squeezed orange, and roasted garlic, it makes an interesting and delicious salad.

In Eastern European countries such as Russia, beetroot is commonly made into Borscht, a soup served with sour cream on top.

Facts

Like many vegetables, beetroot has in the past been used as an aphrodisiac. But in this case, there is a grain of truth to the myth – it contains boron, which is linked to the production of human sex hormones.

If you get beetroot on your clothes, it will stain them – that’s why it was used as a dye for fabrics. Rinse it with cold water to avoid setting the stain, and try rubbing the stain with a pear before washing. Lemon juice and salt will take care of pink staining to the skin.



Broccoli »« Beans: Runner beans

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