Ingredient of the Month 17: Beetroot

Beetroot is so beautiful!
This is one ingredient we seem to have around for most of the year (it keeps well), but it's in Winter, when we have very few of our homegrown veggies left, that we tend to get creative with the beetroot. Cooked or raw in salads, blended in soup, roasted or even juiced... beetroot is another superfood; a really healthy ingredient to eat regularly. It can have a rather earthy flavour, especially if it's organic and homegrown in good soil, as the mineral content will be higher- but careful spicing and a dash of lemon juice will take care of that. Here are some beetroot facts, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Beetroot is a rich source of minerals, including magnesium, potassium and sodium, and of the element boron. It also contains Vitamin C and betaine. The compound betanin gives it its lovely red colour and it is commonly used as a food dye. (Incidentally, as betanin is not broken down by the body, this is what colours your urine after a meal of beetroot!) Calcium, iron, and small amounts of some of  the B-vitamins also feature.
Other health benefits:
The antioxidant properties of the vitamins prevent infection and disease (possibly including cancer), while betaine strengthens the cardiovascular system and beetroot juice is taken to lower the blood pressure. It is also said to prevent liver disease. If you love excercise, then take note: one study has shown that drinking 500ml of beetroot juice a few hours beforehand can increase your endurance by up to 20%. (I'm going to see if this works next time I go running; will let you know...) The boron in beetroot can help alleviate menopausal symptoms and strengthen the bones.
Cooking with Beetroot:
Beetroot has a delicious, sweet, though somewhat earthy flavour. Most of us know it best in its cooked and pickled version, when it happily bleeds its purply-red juice all over everything else that comes within an inch of it on the plate. Personally I don't mind this, although I do not mix it with green salads, preferring to serve it separately. As a salad it's good grated raw with salt, pepper and lemon juice- the health benefits are maximised when it is taken raw, too, as cooking does destroy some nutrients. We sometimes also slice it and cook it until soft in a little water, until the water is absorbed. (You don't waste any more vitamins that way.) Cooled, it can be dressed and eaten as a salad; it goes really well with de-skinned slices of orange, too.
Roasted beetroot with cumin seeds -recipe link below- is also a great Wintery way to eat it: roasting really brings out the sweetness, too. Very thin slices of beetroot make amazing crisps (chips) with the addition of some seasalt and can be made by deep-frying or baking with oil. Borscht is a well-known beetroot-based vegetable soup from Eastern Europe, often flavoured with dill and paprika, and makes a really hearty meal along with your favourite bread. (Rye is a fabulous choice here.) For more beetroot recipes and ideas from this blog, click on the links below:


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