Beet, famous for its red or purple-colored root known as the ‘garden root’ which is a popular vegetable, is a flowering plant whose roots, stem and leaves are used. Other cultivated varieties of beet, are popularly called ‘chard’ and ‘spinach beet’. Sugar beet is a variety of beet that is typically used to make sugar. Almost all varieties of beet are used in most kitchens to make some delectable beet recipes. Some of the most popular beet recipes are beet pickle, red beet eggs and beetroot soup.
History of Beets
The history of beet dates back to the second millennium BC. The first domestication of beets is believed to have been found in the Mediterranean region. From this region the cultivation has spread in the 8th century BC to parts of Babylonia and later to China in around 850 AD. In 19th century, the commercial cultivation of beets had become popular in Europe after the discovery of sucrose extraction from the sugar beets. Since then sugar beets are regarded as the most popular commercial crop for the production of sugar.
Culinary Use of Beets
Almost all varieties of beet are used widely in culinary world. The most commonly used form of beets is beetroot that is cooked as a vegetable, either boiled or stir-fried. It can also be eaten as a salad vegetable by adding vinegar and oil dressing. Pickled beets are highly popular in many cuisines. Beetroot is also cooked as a delicacy by adding little butter and seasoning.
Spinach beet is often eaten as a green leafy vegetable. Usually, the younger leaves are steamed and eaten as it is where as older leaves are stir-fried and incorporated in many beet dishes. Beets recipes also include a wide range of cold and hot soups and stews. Many cuisines incorporate beets in their traditional meals.
Jams, jellies, sauces, condiments and ice creams are some of the widely-accepted beet recipes across the world. Beet juices are considered healthy drinks and are also used to produce wine.
Popular Beet Recipes
• Red beet eggs – It is one of the most popular beet recipes in Dutch cuisine. The liquid remaining after pickling the beets is used to marinate the hard boiled eggs.
• Cold borscht – It is also called cold beet soup. It is a traditional dish in Northern Europe.
• Pickled beet – In this dish, beets are pickled in vinegar and other ingredients. It is one of the most popular traditional beet recipes served in South America.
• Fresh beet salad – Swiss chard and fresh beets are basically required to make this delectable dish. Beet dishes served as salads sometimes use steamed spinach beet as well.
• Glazed baby beets – In this unique dish, honey and vinegar are used to glaze the beets.
Cuisines Commonly Making Beet Dishes
European cuisine is considered one of the top cuisines for several delectable healthy beet recipes. In European cuisine, garden beet is commonly used to make salads and pickles. Spinach beet leaves and Swiss chard are often steamed or boiled to be eaten as a whole. Beet root soup is quite famous in the cuisine.
Pickled beets are widely eaten in American cuisine. It is also considered a traditional dish of South America. Hamburger with pickled beets is a common food served in Australia and New Zeeland.
Jewish and Dutch cuisines are also famous for making traditional beet recipes. Rosh Hashana, the traditional festival of Jews, includes beet as one of the traditional foods.
Swiss chard is a commonly cooked vegetable in African cuisine as well.
Preferred Methods of Making Beet Recipes
• Boiled – Beet dishes, such as beet soup, spinach beet vegetable or midribs of Swiss chard are usually cooked by this method.
• Stir-fried – Beetroot and spinach beet leaves are often stir-fried with other vegetables to make several beet recipes.
• Shredded – Beetroot is shredded and incorporated in salad dishes.
• Pickled – Beets are pickled with vinegar and other seasonings and served as a well-liked condiment.
• Grilled – Beets are often seasoned and kept on grill to be cooked by dry heating method.
• Roasted – For healthy beet recipes, beets are often roasted in oven without any fat and incorporated in numerous dishes.
• Baked – Beet gratins and some other beet dishes are prepared by baking method.
Nutritive Value of Beets
• Beets are an excellent source of Vitamin A, B complex and Vitamin C.
• The green leaves of spinach beet are having more iron as compared to spinach leaves.
• Minerals such as, calcium, sodium and phosphorous are present in extensive amounts.
• Sugar beets are good source of natural sugars as well as carbohydrates.
• Beet juice acts a blood purifier hence helps in curing several ailments.
• Constipation and certain cancers can be avoided by the regular consumption of beet dishes.
Consumption Criteria of Beets
The plant of beet contains oxalic acid that is quite often responsible for the formation of stones in kidney. Beets also contain high amounts of sugar, and hence are not recommended for certain diabetic patients.
Buying and Storing Beets
Selection of beets:
• Select beets with firm and smooth texture.
• Golden-yellow or deep red skin is considered fresh and is characteristic of high-quality beets. The skin should also be blemish free.
• For cooking beet recipes with leaves, always buy beets with green leaves.
Storage of beets and beet dishes:
• Beets should be stored in refrigerator in plastic bag.
• The beet leaves should be separated from the root while storing.
• Try to store beets without washing as moisture may spoil the texture of the leaves and the root.
• Beet dishes should also be refrigerated but not more than 2-3 days.
Types of Beet
Beets are classified into three major categories:
• Sugar beets – These types of beets are mainly used to extract sucrose and to produce table sugar.
• Fodder beets – This beet is basically used to feed animals and not used for human consumption.
• Red beets – This is the variety that is used to make beet recipes. The leaves, stems and roots are used to make beet dishes by various methods.
Non-Food Uses of Beet
The bright-colored beet leaves are often used for decoration purposes.
• ‘Harvard beets’ is a recipe created by one of the student of Harvard University.
• Due to the red color, beets are considered as symbol of love in Paganism.