Beetroot 101

This earthy bulb is filled with surprises.

06 Nov 2009

Despite its intense colour, remarkable flavour and long list of culinary uses, beetroot is an underrated vegetable. In ancient civilisations only the leaves were eaten, with the roots being used for medicinal purposes, and the Romans are credited with having introduced the roots to the table. Today many of us are still not adventurous enough when it comes to this versatile vegetable, often only going so far as buying bottles of pickled beetroot. As a result, we miss out on all the wonderful flavours. Here are some guidelines to help you choose,store and prepare fresh beetroot.


Beetroot is available throughout the year and should preferably be purchased in a bunch with fresh leaves. The spheres should be hard and similar in size, normally fist-sized or, for the baby ones, the size of golf balls. Buy the small beetroot if possible as they have a more intense, sweeter flavour. The leaves are a good indication of the freshness of the beetroot so check them to ensure you buy the freshest bunch available.

Storing Beetroot keeps well for a few weeks. Remove the leaves by cutting them off about 10cm from the root (if you do not remove the leaves they will rot and cause the roots to spoil). Wash the earth off the roots without breaking the skin, making sure you leave the tapered root at the base intact.

Cooking Cooked beetroot can be added to mashed potato, turned into soup or used to colour homemade pasta. Once cooked, beetroot will keep in the fridge for two to three days. In the oven -  Preheat oven to 170 degrees C and prepare beetroot,leaving the skin on,trimming the stalk to 2,5cm and leaving the tapered root intact. Place on a layer of heavy-duty foil and seal to form a parcel. Place on a baking tray and bake for three hours. You should be able to ease the skin away with your thumbs when it is cooked.

Boiled - Use small beetroot for this method of preparation. Prepare as above and place in a saucepan. Add enough boiling water to just cover and a little salt. Cover the saucepan and simmer for about 20 minutes until you can ease off the skin. Leaving the beetroot unpeeled during boiling will stop the red pigment, called betacyanin, from bleeding. Peel and serve hot as a side dish, or use in a salad or in a recipe requiring cooked beetroot. Young beetroot leaves with red spines and veins make a pretty addition to salads, or can be prepared in the same way.

In the microwave
- Beetroot cook very successfully in the microwave, cook two beetroot, wrapped in cling wrap, for six to eight minutes on high.

5 things to do with beetroot
Beetroot and green bean salad

Beetroot and honeyed walnut salad

Beetroot soup with cumin

Beetroot - from box to pan

Beetroot cake

Read more on: natures garden

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