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Deep red and full of taste, beets are a popular winter vegetable
The beetroot is a real eye-catcher with its striking reddish-purple coloured flesh. Its subtle sweet flavour makes the root a beautiful injection of colour in any dish.
Beetroots, often referred to simply as beets in North America, are known for their deep red colour which, in places, even resembles a dark purple. Their striking appearance immediately catches the eye. This winter vegetable has a very specific taste with sweet and earthy notes. Botanically speaking, the root is closely related to the sugar beet, which makes its sweet flavour no surprise. The frost-sensitive root vegetable originated in the Mediterranean region before they were brought to Central Europe by the Romans.
|Class||beet (Beta Vulgaris)|
|Calories||50 kcal per 100g|
|Nutrients||8.4g carbohydrate, 2.5g fibre, 0.1g fat, 1.5g protein per 100g|
|Season||October - March|
|Storage||wrap in newspaper and store in the refrigerator, or a cool dark cellar|
|Shelf life||2-3 weeks to a couple of months|
The biannual herbaceous plant consists of a root with a number of larger leaves – these are usually up to 1.5 metres big. Unlike most root plants, a large portion of the beetroot grows above ground. The root has a tough outer skin that’s grey-brown in colour and a deep, dark red flesh. The rich colour is due to its betanin content, a red glycosidic food dye. It is because of its strong colour that beetroot is used as a natural food dye.
If you’re growing your own beetroots, be careful not to damage the skin upon harvesting – using a gardening fork is the best way to avoid this. If the skin is broken or damaged, the beetroot will dry out and the juice will gradually escape. Aside from buying fresh beetroots in the supermarket or growing your own, the root also comes precooked and preserved in a jar.
Beetroots are harvested in the late summer and with correct storage they can be kept fresh for a number of months. Generally speaking, the roots need to be stored in a cool, but not too cool, and moist place in order to remain juicy. Cellars are therefore the perfect option. Ideally, beetroots should be stored in a wooden crate with damp sand. For this, make sure that the roots are completely covered in sand and then cover the crate in plastic foil so that the moisture doesn’t seep into the wood.
Another option is to freeze them. It is recommended to first cook or blanch them so that the flesh is not mealy when thawed. It is also easier to peel the vegetable before freezing. Try wearing plastic gloves for this as the red colour can really stain. Once chopped and in plastic bags or containers in the freezer, beetroot can be kept for at least a year.
In addition to their rich colour and sweet flavour, beetroots contain hardly any calories, making them a great alternative to the regular potato crisps. Homemade beetroot crisps are quite easy to make but it’s important to use only fresh, raw beetroots, otherwise the end result will not be crispy. Simply slice the vegetable into thin pieces, fry it in plenty of oil and let them dry on kitchen paper.
For a low-fat alternative, place the thin slices on a baking tray, sprinkle them in oil, and bake them in the oven at 150°C for 25 to 40 minutes, depending on the size. Scatter some salt on top and there you have a delicious snack for your next apéro!
The Chioggia beetroot probably originates from the Bassano variety from Venetia, which was one of the first Egyptian beetroots imported to France from Italy in 1841. Chioggia beets were also grown in the USA as early as 1850 where they were a highly popular speciality, particularly among customers living in towns and cities. ProSpecieRara received its first seeds for this variety from the USA in 1990.
The Chioggia beet has a flattened shape, a mildly sweet to bitter flavour and distinctive red and white rings. This colouring is gradually lost during cooking, however. If you want to marvel at the beet's unusual patterning on your plate, you can blanch it quickly and then refresh it in cold water. Or you can eat Chioggia beetroots raw as their flesh is extremely tender and does not need to be cooked. Simply cut the peeled, raw beets into thin, horizontal slices, arrange on a plate and drizzle with balsamic vinegar dressing.
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