The beetroot is the taproot portion of a beet plant, usually known in Canada and the United States as beets while the vegetable is referred to as beetroot in British English, and also known as the table beet, garden beet, red beet, dinner beet or golden beet.
|Subspecies||Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris|
|Cultivar group||Conditiva Group|
|Origin||Sea beet (Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima)|
|Cultivar group members||Many; see text.|
It is one of several cultivated varieties of Beta vulgaris grown for their edible taproots and leaves (called beet greens); they have been classified as B. vulgaris subsp. vulgaris Conditiva Group.
Beets were domesticated in the ancient Middle East, primarily for their greens, and were grown by the Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. By the Roman era, it is thought that they were cultivated for their roots as well. 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".
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||180 kJ (43 kcal)|
|Dietary fiber||2.8 g|
|Vitamin A equiv.|
|Pantothenic acid (B5)|
|†Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults. |
Source: USDA FoodData Central
Usually the deep purple roots of beets are eaten boiled, roasted, or raw, and either alone or combined with any salad vegetable.
The green, leafy portion of the beet is also edible. The young leaves can be added raw to salads, whilst the mature leaves are most commonly served boiled or steamed, in which case they have a taste and texture similar to spinach.
Beetroot can be roasted, boiled or steamed, peeled, and then eaten warm with or without 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 in many countries.
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 and Ukraine, beet is combined with horseradish to form ćwikła or бурачки (burachky), which is traditionally used with cold cuts and sandwiches, but often also added to a meal consisting of meat and potatoes.
Similarly in Serbia beetroot (referred to by the local name cvekla) is used as winter salad, seasoned with salt and vinegar, with meat dishes.
Commonly used in Australian hamburgers, a slice of pickled beetroot is combined with grilled pineapple, cooked onion, fried egg on a beef patty to make an "Aussie burger".
When beet juice is used, it is most stable in foods with a low water content, such as frozen novelties and fruit fillings.
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. Beetroot can also be used to make wine.
Raw beetroot is 88% water, 10% carbohydrates, 2% protein, and less than 1% fat (see table). In a 100-gram (3+1⁄2-ounce) amount providing 180 kilojoules (43 kilocalories) of food energy, raw beetroot is a rich source (27% of the Daily Value - DV) of folate and a moderate source (16% DV) of manganese, with other nutrients having insignificant content (table).
In preliminary research, beetroot juice reduced blood pressure in hypertensive people. Tentative evidence has found that dietary nitrate supplementation, such as from beets and other vegetables, results in a small improvement in endurance exercise performance.
Betanin, obtained from the roots, is used industrially as red food colorant, to improve the color and flavor of tomato paste, sauces, desserts, jams and jellies, ice cream, candy, and breakfast cereals, among other applications.
The chemical adipic acid rarely occurs in nature, but is naturally in beetroot.
The red color compound betanin is not broken down in the body, and in higher concentrations may temporarily cause urine or stools to assume a reddish color, in the case of urine a condition called beeturia.
Although harmless, this effect may cause initial concern due to the visual similarity to what appears to be blood in the stool, hematochezia (blood passing through the anus, usually in or with stool) or hematuria (blood in the urine).
Below is a list of several commonly available cultivars of beets. Generally, 55 to 65 days are needed from germination to harvest of the root. All cultivars can be harvested earlier for use as greens. Unless otherwise noted, the root colours are shades of red and dark red with different degrees of zoning noticeable in slices.
- 'Action', gained the RHS's Award of Garden Merit (AGM) in 1993.
- 'Albino', heirloom (white root)
- 'Alto', AGM, 2005.
- 'Bettollo', AGM, 2016.
- 'Boltardy', AGM, 1993.
- 'Bona', AGM, 2016.
- 'Boro', AGM, 2005.
- 'Bull's Blood', heirloom
- 'Cheltenham Green Top', AGM, 1993.
- 'Chioggia', heirloom (distinct red and white zoned root)
- 'Crosby's Egyptian', heirloom
- 'Cylindra' / 'Formanova', heirloom (elongated root)
- 'Detroit Dark Red Medium Top', heirloom
- 'Early Wonder', heirloom
- 'Forono', AGM, 1993.
- 'Golden Beet' / 'Burpee's Golden', heirloom (yellow root)
- 'MacGregor's Favorite', an heirloom carrot-shaped beet
- 'Pablo', AGM, 1993.
- 'Perfected Detroit', 1934 AAS winner
- 'Red Ace', hybrid, AGM, 2001.
- 'Rubidus', AGM, 2005.
- 'Ruby Queen', 1957 AAS winner
- 'Solo', AGM, 2005.
- 'Touchstone Gold', (yellow root)
- 'Wodan', AGM, 1993.
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Relief workers invented names for things they had never seen before, such as the mangelwurzel disease, which afflicted those who lived solely on beets.
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