|Subspecies||Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris|
|Cultivar group||Conditiva Group|
|Origin||Sea beet (Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima)|
|Cultivar group members||Many; see text.|
The beetroot is the taproot portion of a beet plant, usually known in North America as beets while the vegetable is referred to as beetroot in British English, and also known as the table beet, garden 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. vulgaris subsp. vulgaris Conditiva Group.
The domestication of beetroot can be traced to the emergence of an allele which enables biennial harvesting of leaves and taproot. Beetroot was domesticated in the ancient Middle East, primarily for their greens, and were grown by the Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. By the Roman era, it is thought that they were cultivated for their roots as well. 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".
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||180 kJ (43 kcal)|
|Dietary fiber||2.8 g|
|Vitamin A equiv.|
|Pantothenic acid (B5)|
|†Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults. |
Source: USDA FoodData Central
Usually the deep purple roots of beetroot are eaten boiled, roasted, or raw, and either alone or combined with any salad vegetable. The green, leafy portion of the beetroot 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. Beetroot can be roasted, 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 beetroot is a traditional food in many countries.
In Eastern Europe, beetroot soup, such as borscht, is common. In Poland and Ukraine, beetroot is combined with horseradish to form ćwikła or бурячки (buryachky), which is traditionally used with cold cuts and sandwiches, but often also added to a meal consisting of meat and potatoes.
Similarly in Serbia beetroot (referred to by the local name cvekla) is used as winter salad, seasoned with salt and vinegar, with meat dishes.
Botvinya is an old-time traditional Russian cold soup made from leftover beet greens and chopped beetroots, typically with bread and kvass added. Botvinya got its name from Russian botva, which means "root vegetable greens", here referring to beet plant leaves.
Svekolnik, or svyokolnik, is yet another Russian beet-based soup, typically distinguished from borscht in that vegetables for svekolnik are cooked raw and not fried, whilst many types of borscht typically include fried carrots and other fried vegetables. Svekolnik got its name from svekla or svyokla, which are two Russian words for "beet". Sometimes, various types of cold borscht are also called "svekolnik".
Industrial production and other uses
A large proportion of the commercial production is processed into boiled and sterilised beetroot or into pickles.
Betanin, obtained from the roots, is used industrially as red food colorant, to improve the color and flavor of tomato paste, sauces, desserts, jams and jellies, ice cream, candy, and breakfast cereals. When beetroot juice is used, it is most stable in foods with a low water content, such as frozen novelties and fruit fillings.
Beetroot can be used to make wine.
Raw beetroot is 88% water, 10% carbohydrates, 2% protein, and less than 1% fat (see table). In a 100-gram (3+1⁄2-ounce) amount providing 180 kilojoules (43 kilocalories) of food energy, 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).
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 color, 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).
Below is a list of several commonly available cultivars of beetroot. 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.
- 'Action', gained the RHS's Award of Garden Merit (AGM) in 1993.
- 'Albino', heirloom (white root)
- 'Alto', AGM, 2005.
- 'Bettollo', AGM, 2016.
- 'Boltardy', AGM, 1993.
- 'Bona', AGM, 2016.
- 'Boro', AGM, 2005.
- 'Bull's Blood', heirloom
- 'Cheltenham Green Top', AGM, 1993.
- 'Chioggia', heirloom (distinct red and white zoned root)
- 'Crosby's Egyptian', heirloom
- 'Cylindra' / 'Formanova', heirloom (elongated root)
- 'Detroit Dark Red Medium Top', heirloom
- 'Early Wonder', heirloom
- 'Forono', AGM, 1993.
- 'Golden Beet' / 'Burpee's Golden', heirloom (yellow root)
- 'MacGregor's Favorite', an heirloom carrot-shaped beetroot
- 'Pablo', AGM, 1993.
- 'Perfected Detroit', 1934 AAS winner
- 'Red Ace', hybrid, AGM, 2001.
- 'Rubidus', AGM, 2005.
- 'Ruby Queen', 1957 AAS winner
- 'Solo', AGM, 2005.
- 'Touchstone Gold', (yellow root)
- 'Wodan', AGM, 1993.
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Relief workers invented names for things they had never seen before, such as the mangelwurzel disease, which afflicted those who lived solely on beetroot.
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