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Saturday, 21 May 2011

Beetroot - not just for Christmas

Beetroot is an easy vegetable to grow from seed  and can be sown, in Cyprus, between September and April.  It's more or less disease and pest free and only needs moderate watering.  We are now working our way through a lovely row of big plump beetroot and it's such a versatile vegetable. Until recently, we have been using supermarket bought beetroot and the difference in taste is remarkable, home grown is much sweeter, deeper in colour and cooks quicker. Did you know, that the green leafy portion of the beet is also edible. It is most commonly served boiled or steamed, in which case it has a taste and texture similar to spinach. 

When most people think of beetroot, they think of sliced or chunked beetroot in jars at Christmas and because of this it's sadly an under used vegetable. Besides being enjoyed grated raw or cooked in salads, it can be used for chutney, pickled, in dips, juiced, for soups, baked and even in desserts (try a beetroot and chocolate cake). Winemakers have also been known to use it and apparently its tastes like port.  

Beetroot, botanically-known as Beta vulgaris, evolved from wild seabeet, and was first domesticated in the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East – although it was only the leaves that were eaten at that time. 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.  The ancient users were right, studies have shown, beetroot can lower blood pressure, boost your immune system and is a rich source of potent antioxidants and nutrients, including magnesium, sodium, potassium and vitamin C.

We all know that beetroot stains everything it touches, tastes good and is very healthy addition to a diet. But here, in no particular order, are some things that you may or may not have know about beetroot.

Eating a lot of beetroot turns your urine pink/red and can even make your stools darken.

Beetroot juice can be used to measure acidity. When added to an acidic solution it turns pink, but when it is added to an alkali it turns yellow.

Beetroot is used in the food industry to colour a number of things such as to make the red redder in tomato pastes, various sauces, jams, and even ice cream.

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