I first discovered how delicious and indeed nutritious fresh beetroot was about three years ago when we started to grow our own vegetables and picked it as one of the apparent fail safe root veg options!! I couldn’t believe how easy it was to grow and have been hooked ever since. I am consistently trying new recipes and cooking methods with it as the main player.
Beetroot has been appreciated through the ages – the ancient Romans drank beetroot juice as an aphrodisiac and the ancient Greeks offered beetroot on a silver platter to the god Apollo. It took a back seat for a few years, rarely to be seen on menus and without major exposure until its recent revival (which I hope continues). A recent study showed that Beetroot juice boosted performance on the running track in total increasing endurance levels by 16%. It showed that beetroot juice increases stamina and makes muscles more efficient due to its high levels of nitrates. http://www.independent.ie/health/health-news/how-to-boost-performance-on-the-running-track-eat-more-beetroot-3092566.html.
So what is it about beetroot that is so beneficial to our health?
The leaves are high in iron which helps your blood carry oxygen throughout your body
It is high in soluble fibre which has been shown to lower cholesterol
It contains the mineral silica which is good for bone health
It contains powerful antioxidants which protect your heart
It contains high levels of chemicals called nitrates, which have been shown to boost exercise performance
From a Chinese Medical perspective beetroot
Strengthens the heart, improves circulation
Purifies and strengthens the blood
Benefits the liver and helps to move stagnate blood and qi
Balances hormones to aid menstruation, fertility and menopausal symptoms.
It also moistens the intestines to aid constipation
Ideally you should buy fresh beetroot, stalks and leaves attached, you will find it at the root vegetable section in your supermarket or local fruit and vegetable shop. Here is the best part, it is Irish grown and one of the cheapest vegetables you can buy!!!
How to prepare and cook beetroot
My first advise is that you are prepared before slicing and dicing beetroot, be warned it will dye all it touches pink/purple, so if you want to wear gloves and wash boards immediately after use. There are a number of ways to eat fresh beetroot
Grate raw beetroot on to your salads – a colorful and healthy addition to your menu
Try juicing them with carrots and apples for a super healthy drink and to add an earthy flavor.
Use the leaves finely chopped in omelettes or quiches
Roast to bring out the natural sweetness and add a nourishing quality.
My personal favorite way to cook beetroot is to roast it. Below are three easy and delicious recipes for roasting beetroot. Feel free to add and substrate ingredients as you cater for your own tastes!!
1. Beetroot and Goats Cheese Salad: Roast individually (with skins on) wrapped in tinfoil, this can take up to 1 hour (depending on size), check by piercing with a knife as you would a baked potato. Meanwhile prepare the salad of spinach leaves, orange segments (brings out the sweetness of the beets), tomatoes, and possibly avocado. When the beetroot is ready, peel and cut into slices, place on top of the salad and top with slices of goats cheese and crushed mixed nuts (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts). The goats cheese will melt on top of the beetroot (yum), drizzle with dressing (olive oil, balsamic vinegar, wholegrain mustard, honey, salt and pepper and a squeeze of lime). Enjoy!!
2. Roasted Mixed Veg.: I tend to mix beetroot, carrots, potato and sweet potato together; they all cook on different timescales, as above, the longest time for beetroot and shortest for sweet potato, so cut to size accordingly, drizzle in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. 15mins before the end add whole garlic cloves (with skins on) and fresh rosemary. This together with an organic free range roast chicken and steamed asparagus and broccoli makes a perfect Sunday feast.
3. Beetroot Crisps: Slice the beetroot very thinly and place in a preheated open with olive oil and lots of pepper and a pinch of Himalayan rock salt, check and shake every few mins. A much healthier alternative to regular crisps. These can be added as an additional texture to the above dishes.
There are plenty of other ways to enjoy beetroot, so pick it up the next time your shopping and give it a go, or even better try and grow it yourself this year!! Beetroot are easy to grow and can be sowed from mid April to July (plenty of time). They are a great seed for kids to plant as they’re quite large and easy to handle. If you’re limited on space beetroot can be successfully grown in containers and harvested when they are golf ball sized.
To Note: The red colour compound betanin is not broken down in the body, and in higher concentration may temporarily cause urine (termed beeturia) and stool to assume a reddish colour. This effect may cause distress and concern due to the visual similarity to hematuria (blood in the urine) or blood in the stool, but is completely harmless and will subside once the food is out of the system.