The beetroot is the taproot portion of a beet plant, usually known in North America as the beet, and also known as the table beet, garden beet, sugar beet, red beet, dinner beet or golden beet. 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. vulgarissubsp. vulgaris 'Conditiva' Group.
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".
During the middle of the 19th century, wine often was coloured with beetroot juice.
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.
Usually the deep purple roots of beetroot are eaten boiled, roasted, or raw, and either alone or combined with any salad vegetable. A large proportion of the commercial production is processed into boiled and sterilized beets or into pickles. In Eastern Europe, beet soup, such as borscht, is a popular dish. In Indian cuisine, chopped, cooked, spiced beet is a common side dish. Yellow-coloured beetroots are grown on a very small scale for home consumption.
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. Those greens selected should be from bulbs that are unmarked, instead of those with overly limp leaves or wrinkled skins, both of which are signs of dehydration.
Section through taproot
The domestication of beets can be traced to the emergence of an allele which enables biennial harvesting of leaves and taproot.
Beetroot can be 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 popular ?wik?a or ? (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 where the popular cvekla is used as winter salad, seasoned with salt and vinegar, with meat dishes. As an addition to horseradish, it is also used to produce the "red" variety of chrain, a popular condiment in Ashkenazi Jewish, Hungarian, Polish, Lithuanian, Russian, and Ukrainian cuisine.
Raw beetroot is 88% water, 10% carbohydrates, 2% protein, and less than 1% fat (see table). In a 100-gram amount providing 43 calories, 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.
The chemical adipic acid rarely occurs in nature, but happens to occur naturally in beetroot.
The red colour compound betanin is not broken down in the body, and in higher concentrations may temporarily cause urine or stools to assume a reddish colour, 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).
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^"Urine color". Mayo Clinic, Patient Care and Health Information, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. 2016. Retrieved 2016.
^Kolb E, Haug M, Janzowski C, Vetter A, Eisenbrand G (1997). "Potential nitrosamine formation and its prevention during biological denitrification of red beet juice". Food and Chemical Toxicology. 35 (2): 219-24. doi:10.1016/s0278-6915(96)00099-3. PMID9146735.