All About: Beetroot

beetrootBeetroot, like many of our favourite vegetables, was first cultivated by the Romans and, perhaps surprisingly, it belongs to the same family as chard and spinach. You can eat both the root and the leaves, although many grocers chop the greens off if they’re damaged or tired. The root is typically round, although it does come in a cylindrical variety, and it’s sweet to taste, whilst the leaves are a little bitter. Beetroots come in purple, golden, white and a vibrantly striped mix of purple and white – the chioggia.

Beetroot greens are rich in calcium, iron and vitamins A and C, and should be cooked much like you would spinach, whilst the beetroot roots are a great source of folic acid, fibre, manganese and potassium. An 100g serving of beetroot contains just 43 calories and no fat.

Beetroot’s rich colour comes from the pigment betacyanin (the same thing that gives ruby chard its red stalks) and is thought to hinder the development of some cancers. Beetroots are heralded for increasing the levels of antioxidant enzymes in the body and the number of white blood cells, plus contain a significant amount of glutamine, which does wonders for your intestines.

When purchased, beetroots should be firm and colourful (be them purple or golden) and will keep for two to four weeks in the fridge if the greens are detached. To avoid the beetroot staining your skin, boil it with its root end attached and an inch or so of stem, then peel them after cooking.

Did you know? Beetroot can be used in sweet dishes too and make a great accompaniment to chocolate in both cakes and brownies.

Image from Cultivate Oxford