A beet is the tubular root of the beet plant, both of which the green and the root is edible. The Garden variety of beet, which we consume, is the Beta vulgaris. (The original beets were long and bulky, resembling the Greek letter “B”, or Beta). There are over a dozen varieties of beets. The most common variety is the red/purple variety. Beets also come in red, purple, orange, yellow, tan and white varieties.
Beets supposedly originated in the North African region of the world. The Chioggia, or a beet that has a red and white bull’s eye pattern, was credited to the Romans. When cooked, the beet is a pretty pink color, with white tones, almost tie-dyed.
Beets were offered to Apollo in his temple at Delphi. The Romans cultivated beets and they are even mentioned in Apicius’ cookbook of ancient gourmet recipes. In Ancient times, the beet was more renowned for their medicinal properties than their culinary properties
The fodder, is a beet that is used to make livestock feed. The sugar beet was discovered in the 16th century. Sugar beets are used to make sucrose and product ½ the sugar in the world.
Beet greens are the green leaves of the beet root. Beet green are curly leaves that can be braised or stewed. They are also known as gout de terroir, or taste of the soil. Beet greens require long, slow cooking.
The root itself contains betaganin, which gives it its deep color. The beet, which can be used for a dye, is soluble in water. It bleeds when it is cut.
Roasting is the best way to cook the beets. It helps to retain its flavor and nutrients, and intensifies the flavor. When cooking beets, leave them whole with approximately 1 inch of its stem on so the color and nutrients won’t leak badly. Small and medium beets are the most tender.
When choosing beets, choose ones that are firm, regularly shaped either round or elongated. Beets are high in potassium, vitamins A and C, magnesium, and riboflavin, and sugar. They are in season from June to October.
Beet’s Flavor Matches
eggs, hard cooked
smokes fish, esp. trout or whitefish
vinegar, esp. balsamic, sherry, and white wine
© 2012 Chef Jennifer M. Denlinger All rights reserved
Cite me: Denlinger, J. (2012, November 15). Beets. Retrieved from: FloridaChef.net