Beetroot is also known as Beet, Garden Beet, Table Beet, Red Beet. Golden Beet or Roman Beet.
It’s a cultivated varietyof the species Beta vulgaris. Other cultivated varieties of Beta vulgaris include: Sugar beet, Spinach Beet, Swiss Chard and Fodder Beet.
It is a root vegetable with two edible parts, the red globular root and the young green leaves, usually called, beet greens. The beet greens have green or red veins and are used as a vegetable.
The roots are mostly globe shaped with a deep red flesh, but some beets may be shaped like thick carrots and some varieties have golden or white flesh.
The size of a beet ranges from the size of a small mandarin to the size of a large grapefruit. The smaller sized ones are tastier and softer in texture.
The red globular beet is the most important worldwide. Europe and North America produce the bulk of the crop. Their combined annual commercial production amounts to 900,000 t (excluding Eastern Europe).
The yellow-coloured globular beet is grown on a very small scale for home consumption.
Beets have the highest sugar content of any vegetable but they are also very low in calories and have zero cholesterol. 100g (3.5oz) of beet provides 43 calories.
The characteristic sweet flavour of beets is experienced in raw, cooked or canned beets.
Fresh beetsare higher in vitamin C, and folacin, than cooked, and have a distinctive flavour and crisp texture.
The young leaves are an excellent source of beta carotene, calcium and iron.
Beets contain geosmin which causes its typical earthy smell.
Use of Beetroot
95% of the beet produced in the USA is processed for canning and sold, plain, pickled or spiced.
Beets are usually boiled, steamed, roasted or eaten raw, either alone, as a side or combined with any salad or vegetable. Prolonged cooking of beets makes the colour fade.
They can be used as a ingredient in rice and curries or pickled or made into relish.
Beet is a popular ingredient in soups and is the main ingredient in Borscht, the classic Russian peasant soup
Beet juice is a popular heath drink.
Beet can also be used in smoothies.
Beet greens: can be prepared the same way other greens like spinach are prepared. It has a taste and texture similar to spinach.
Natural Food Colour
The scarlet colour of beet is due to a combination of purple pigments, betacyanins and yellow ones, betaxanthins.
The chemical responsible for the red colour of beets called betanin or beetroot red, is used industrially as a natural food colour to improve the colour of tomato paste, sauces, desserts, jams, jellies, ice cream, sweets and breakfast cereals.
Betanin is water soluble and sensitive to high temperatures, oxygen and light.
Forms of strikingly coloured large leaved beets are used as ornamentals.