Sunday, January 24, 2010

Beetroot: the beet goes on....

Beta vulgaris var esculenta
aka Beetroot

Beetroot ready for harvest

An Aussie classic on every Summer picnic table Golden Beetroot at a Farmers' Market
(photo courtesy of George Gaston)

The Australia Day get together would not be complete without the Hamburger in the form of an 'Aussieburger' which includes sliced beetroot. Once upon a time, the tinned variety was the only kind we knew about. It was included in every picnic basket as an essential ingredient in salads, staining many a shirt in the process with red juice due to its habit of sliding out of the hamburger bun down into your lap.
Beetroot is a feature of Flemish and Slav cooking. In Poland and Russia it is used to make the well known soup Borsch. Borsch being based on stewed meat which is often removed and eaten separately, flour and sour cream, potatoes, white cabbage, mushrooms and kidney beans with beetroot added to give the characteristic bright red colour.The red colour is due to betalains, nitrogen containing pigments. In modern Australian cooking, fresh cooked beetroot is now more likely to be teamed with cumin, mint, coriander, limes ,walnuts and goats cheese. More traditional Slav style flavour partners are horseradish cream and caraway seeds.
It is an easy plant to grow at almost any time of the year. The young leaves can be added to salads . This can be done as you thin out densely planted seedlings. Older leaves can be cooked like spinach . Harvesting small beets, the so called baby beets ,means they can be used whole in salads or cooked dishes. Steaming or boiling of large beetroot may take about 30 minutes until they are tender. I like to oven roast them drizzled in olive oil with thyme and garlic. Cooked beetroot have about 8% sugar and a relatively high energy value, about 130kcal per 100g. They are also a rich source of magnesium and contain some Vitamin C. Different coloured beets such as the golden variety pictured above are available from specialist seed suppliers.


  1. Beet root is supposed to be extremely good for health. The 'Health spas' around here give beet juice to the inmates every morning for breakfast.

  2. Ian, great post about beets. They are one of my favorite vegetables.