& COOKING ARTICLE
BEETROOT, BEETROOT . . . don't you just love it!
HISTORY OF BEETROOT
Beetroot, botanically-known as Beta vulgaris, evolved
from wild seabeet, which is a native of coastlines
from India to Britain and is the ancestor of all cultivated
forms of beet. Sea beet was first domesticated in
the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East although
it was only the leaves that were eaten at that time.
Beetroot was offered to Apollo in his temple at Delphi,
where it was reckoned to be worth its own weight in
silver! The Romans began to cultivate it in
earnest, and early recipes included cooking it with
honey and wine. Apicius, the renowned Roman gourmet,
included beetroot in recipes for broths and even recommended
making it into a salad with a dressing of mustard,
oil and vinegar in his book The Art of Cooking.
In early times, the medicinal properties of the root
were more important than its eating qualities and
it was used to treat a range of ailments including
fevers, constipation, wounds and various skin problems.
At that time, the roots were long and thin like a
carrot. The rounded root shape that we are familiar
with today was not developed until the Sixteenth century
and became widely popular in Central and Eastern Europe
two hundred years later. Many classic beetroot dishes
originated in this region including the famous beetroot
soup, known as Borsch.
TO GROW BEETROOT
the UK, beetroot is grown on the fertile soils of
the Cambridgeshire fens a traditional salad
and vegetable growing area in the heart of England.
The fens offer the perfect combination of soil, sun
and water to produce a sweet, full flavoured root. Beetroots
need a lot of sunshine to get the sweet taste they
are renowned for.
The crops are grown from seed that is sown in May
and the beetroot is ready to harvest from early July
onwards. Once dug up, the beetroot is packed straight
from the field. This continues throughout the growing
season, which finishes in October. After this beetroot
comes from store.
Beetroot is one of the most environmentally friendly
crops, rarely needing treatment with pesticides. The
vegetable is best suited to the cooler growing conditions
found in northern Europe and is an important part
of Slav and Nordic cooking.
Beetroot is one of the newest super foods
to hit the headlines. Packed full of nutrients, it
has long been used in folk medicine to treat a variety
of ailments including fevers, constipation and illnesses
relating to digestion and the blood. It turns out
the Ancient Romans got a few things right as the benefits
of a beetroot-filled diet are immense!
Beetroot provides a rich source of carbohydrates,
protein, and has high levels of important vitamins,
minerals and micronutrients. What is more, just three
baby beetroot equal one of the five portions of fruit
and vegetables that The Food Standards Agency recommends
eating a day.
Beetroot is a great source of potassium, magnesium,
folic acid, iron, zinc, calcium, phosphorus, sodium,
niacin, biotin, betanin and beta-carotene. It also
contains the important vitamins A, B6 and C plus powerful
antioxidants and soluble fibre.
Viagra One of earliest known benefits of beetroot
is its use as an aphrodisiac during the Roman times.
And it wasnt all folklore as it has been found
to contain high amounts of boron, which is directly
related to the production of human sex hormones.
in the mood - Beetroot contains betaine, a substance
that relaxes the mind and is used in other forms to
treat depression. It also contains trytophan which
is also found in chocolate and contributes to a sense
of well being.
Getting in a jam - The red pigment in beetroot is
used to colour strawberry jam as well as to improve
the colour of tomato paste, sauces and strawberry
of love - The Lupanare, the official brothel of Pompeii,
which still stands despite the best efforts of Vesuvius
in 79AD, has its walls adorned with pictures of beetroots.
Healing power - Hippocrates advocated the use of beet
leaves as binding for wounds.
Beware garlic - Platina recommended taking beetroot
with garlic to nullify the effects of 'garlic-breath'.
The commanders code - Field Marshal Montgomery,
an army commander in WWII, is reputed to have exhorted
his troops to 'take favours in the beetroot fields',
a euphemism for visiting prostitutes
to riches - Sir Alan Sugar of Apprentice fame demonstrated
early entrepreneurial flair when, while at school,
he got a job boiling beetroots for the local greengrocer.
Litmus test - You can use beetroot juice to measure
acidity. When added to an acidic solution it turns
pink, but when it is added to an alkali it turns yellow.
Potent like a horseradish - The Oracle at Delphi claimed
that beetroot was second only in mystical potency
to horseradish, and that it was worth its weight in
Everlasting love - In many cultures the belief persists
that if a man and a woman eat from the same beetroot
then they will fall in love.
Head and shoulders - If you boil beetroots in water
and then massage the water into your scalp each night,
it works as an effective cure for dandruff.
Out of this world - In 1975, during the Apollo-Soyuz
Test Project, cosmonauts from the USSRs Soyuz
19 welcomed the Apollo 18 astronauts by preparing
a banquet of borscht (beetroot soup) in zero gravity.
Wonders of the world - Around 800 BC, an Assyrian
text describes beets growing in the Hanging Gardens
of Babylon, one of the wonders of the ancient world.
heads - Since the 16th century, beet juice has been
used as a natural red dye. The Victorians used beetroot
to dye their hair.
Bottoms up Beetroot can be made into a wine
that tastes similar to port
Vanish - Beetroot is a water-soluble dye, and hot
water seems to 'fix' the colour stain more, so use
lukewarm or cold water to avoid staining. To cure
the inevitable 'pink fingers', rub with lemon juice
and salt before washing with soap and water.
On fabrics, try rubbing a slice of raw pear
on the stain before washing, or rinse in cold
water before washing in a biological powder.
Beetroot burgers In Australia, a true Oz-style
burger must have a slice or two of beetroot. Even
McDonalds and Burger King have had to toe the line
and include it in their menus.
diet for cricketers The Beetroot Diet involves
followers eating beetroot three times a day, alongside
other vegetables and whole foods. The Warwickshire
County Cricket Club adopted the Beetroot Diet in 2004
and won the county championship that season!
Record breakers - The world's heaviest beetroot weighed
23.4kg (51.48lb) and was grown by Ian Neale from Somerset
Sugar rush - Beetroot has one of the highest sugar
contents of any vegetable. Up to 10 per cent of beetroot
is sugar, but it is released slowly into the body
rather than the sudden rush that results from eating
Messy business - The Elizabethans prepared beetroot
by wiping it with fresh dung before cooking it.
Darling buds of May - Catherine Zeta Jones is reported
to have become addicted to beetroot after eating it
while pregnant with her two children.
TO COOK BEETROOT
beetroot can be peeled and grated into salads to add
a sweet flavour and great colour. You can also juice
it with other vegetables such as carrots and celery.
Use gloves or a plastic sandwich bag to hold beetroot
when grating it, to avoid pink fingers!
cook beetroot from raw
peel or cut it, or the colour (and nutrients) will
leach out. Gently scrub the beets to clean thoroughly,
and twist off the green tops.
roast: Small to medium beets can be roasted
whole, or cut into quarters. Pre-boil for 15-20
minutes, drain and place in a roasting tin. Lightly
coat with oil and seasoning and roast at 180C/360F/Gas
4 for 40-45 minutes (timing will vary depending
on the size of the beets).
boil: put beetroot in a pan of water, bring
to the boil and heat for 40 - 45 minutes. Beetroot
is naturally quite high in sodium so you dont
need to add salt.
bake: preheat oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3. Put the
whole beets into a baking dish, cover with foil
and cook for 1-2 hours (depending on the size of
the beets). Leave until cool enough to handle, and
remove the skins - they should slip off easily.
cooked beetroot (vacuum packed) can be heated in the
bag either add to boiling water & simmer
for 15 minutes, or pierce the top of the bag a couple
of times and microwave (3½ mins at 650w or
3mins at 750w). Leave to cool for 1 minute before
are many herbs and spices that go well with beetroot
including balsamic vinegar, bay leaves, citrus, chives,
garlic, horseradis,; mustard (recommended by the Roman
writer Pliny) peppercorns and thyme.
clean up beetroot stains
is a water-soluble dye so try one of these methods
to clean up stains:
remove from hands, rub with lemon juice and salt
before washing with soap and water.
fabrics, rub a slice of raw pear on the stain before
washing or rinse in cold water before washing in
a biological powder
a bleach solution for cutting boards and containers.
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reproduced with the permission of www.lovebeetroot.co.uk
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