Belonging to the same family as chard, silverbeet and spinach, both the leaves and root can be eaten – the leaves have a similar flavour and texture to chard and can be prepared and eaten in the same way.
While the most common form of beetroot is the rich purple coloured root, there are also golden and white varieties as well the fashionable Chioggia or what is sometimes referred as candy striped beetroot.
Fresh beetroot is a wonderfully versatile vegetable which can be eaten raw or cooked and is considered by many to have considerable health benefits including helping to stimulate the liver’s detoxification processes, preventing constipation, lowering cholesterol levels and reducing blood pressure.
Beetroot gets its vivant colour from a plant pigment called betacyanin which is thought to help suppress some types of cancer.
The fibre in beetroot has been shown to increase antioxidant enzymes in the body and it is also a rich source of the amino acid glutamine which is essential for the health and maintenance of the intestinal tract.
A 100g serving of raw beetroot has about 221kJ (53 calories), 2g protein, 10g carbohydrate, 3g fibre and virtually no fat.
Chioggia Beetroot: This pretty heirloom beet, like the winter squash Marina Di Chioggia, originates from the Italian coastal town of Chioggia (pronounced kee-oh-jah) which is situated on a small island in the Lagoon of Venice, about 25 kilometres south of Venice. Chioggia is loved by cooks and chefs for its hot pink skin and its pink and white striped flesh. Unfortunately, on cooking the strips of the Chioggia beetroot fade and the beet cooks to a muddy pink colour. To get full visual impact, slice very thinly, dress and serve as a salad – see recipe below.
Availability: At The Chef’s Garden @ Epicurean we generally have beetroot available year round with peak season being during the cooler months when the beetroot tends to be sweeter and most tender. The size varies depending on the time of year. We also grow Chioggia beetroot.
Goes with: anchovies; balsamic vinegar; bitter greens; cider vinegar; cottage cheese; cream; feta cheese; garlic; honey; horseradish; lemons; mayonnaise; mustard; olive oil; onions; oranges; potatoes; red wine vinegar; smoked fish; smoked meats; sour cream; venison; and walnuts.
SELECTION, STORAGE, PREPARATION & USING
- Selection: The root should be firm and smooth with a good colour. If the tops are intact they should look green and fresh.
- Preparation: Cut the leaves and stems from the root, leaving at least 2cm intact – this stops the beet from bleeding during cooking. Wash well to remove any surface dirt. Do not cut off the long tapering root – cutting this off will also cause the beet to bleed during cooking. Beetroot are not generally peeled prior to cooking, the exception is if making soup where you want the colour to run.
- Storage: Store in a cool, airy, dark place or in the vegetable bin of the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. It leaves are still attach use these within a couple of days, cutting them at least 2cm from top of root, so that some of the stems are left intact.
- Using: Beetroot can be boiled, steamed, baked or eaten raw. Once cooked the skins slip off easily.
- To boil: Place prepared beetroot in a saucepan of lightly salted cold water, bring to the boil and simmer until a skewer can be inserted into the beet without resistance – cooking time is dependent on the size of the root with small beets taking as little as 30 minutes while large ones can take up to 1½ hours.
- To bake: Wrap prepared beets in lightly oiled foil and bake at 180°C until tender – once again the cooking time is dependent on the size of the root and when cooked you should be able to insert a skewer without resistance.
- Raw Chioggia Salad: Scrub and very thinly slice 1 bunch Chiogga beetroot, core and thinly slice 2 green apples and place in a bowl with some torn mint leaves. Make a dressing of ½ cup olive oil, ¼ cup lemon juice and a drizzle of honey. Season with a good grind of sea salt and black pepper, pour over beetroot mixture and toss to combine. Just prior to serving, scatter with 250g crumbled feta cheese, ¼ cup toasted sunflower seeds and additional mint leaves. Serves 4-6.
- Beetroot, Fennel and Mint Slaw: This colourful slaw is an easy and tasty addition to a summer salad table and teams well with barbecued meats especially lamb or try it as a sandwich filling with ham or cold meats. Place 1 cup raisins in a bowl and pour 1 cup hot water to cover. Set aside to soak for 5 minutes. Drain. Peel and grate 3 medium-sized beetroot and place in a large bowl. Add 1 thinly sliced fennel bulb, 1 thinly sliced red onion and raisins. Whisk together ½ cup olive oil and ¼ red wine vinegar and pour over beetroot mixture to moisten well. Toss to combine and season with a good grind of sea salt and black pepper. Cover and let stand at room temperature for at least ½ hour to allow flavours to mellow and blend. Just prior to serving toss again then scatter with 100g crumbled feta and some shredded mint. Serves 6-8 as a salad
Recipes using beetroot: