Those delicious, nutritious beetroots or simply beets that add color to your dinner table are root vegetables that belong to the Amaranthaceae family. They have long since been cultivated for their edible roots and leaves and are also popularly used as an organic food coloring and medicinal plant.
The flavorful red roots can be boiled, baked, or pickled, while the leaves make an excellent addition to fresh salads, stir-fries, and more.
Americans and Canadians usually call them beets, while the British call the same vegetable as beetroot. Other less common names include table beet, red beet, garden beet, and dinner beet.
What the beetroot plant is, and how did it become such a popular ingredient for everyday recipes? Their history is as rich as their color! If you love beets, keep reading, and you’ll love learning all about them!
And by the way, beet juice is a natural remedy that works as a cure for hangovers. Don’t believe me? Just check out this article on nola.com about the natural remedies that can help with your hangover.
|Common Name||Beet Or Beetroot|
|Botanical Name||Beta Vulgaris|
|Plant Type||An Annual|
|Size (Fully Grown)||1.5 Feet (About 46 cm)|
|Sun Exposure||Full Sun To Partial Shade|
|Soil Type||Likes To Grow In Loamy And Sandy Soils|
|Soil pH||From 6.0 To 7.0|
|U.S. Hardiness Zones||2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, And 11|
How Many Beetroot Varieties Are There?
Although you see the same kind of beets in the supermarket’s vegetable aisle, there’s a lot more to these roots that you might not yet be aware of. For one, there are tons of beetroot varieties to choose from – and they’re not all red!
When picking a variety to grow in your garden, you’ll also find white, pink, golden, and even striped types, besides the classic red beets. Here are some of the most common beetroot cultivars:
- Red Ace
- Red Ball
- Baby Beets
- Sugar Beets
- Bull’s Blood
- Ruby Queen
- White Detroit
- Early Wonder
- Golden Detroit
- Chioggia Beets
- Lutz Green Leaf
- Crosby Egyptian
- Touchstone Gold
- Detroit Dark Red
- White Albino Beets
- Mangel-Wurzel Beets
Where Does Beetroot Originally Come From?
We believe that beets originated from ancient Egypt, somewhere around the time of the Third Dynasty. The oldest proof of beets’ use is found from the 3rd millennium BC from the middle Bronze age. Records suggest that these vegetables were also being cultivated in Babylon’s Hanging Gardens back in 800 BC.
Ancient Greeks called it “teutlion” and cultivated it since 300 BC. The vegetable was only grown for its leaves for a long time before people started to consume the roots. They used the leaves medicinally and as a herb for culinary purposes. But, the roots were offered to Apollo, the sun god in Delphi’s temple.
Romans were the first ones to discover the culinary benefits of the roots. They called the vegetable beta. The roots of the beet plant were initially mainly consumed for medicinal purposes. They could cure fever and work as an effective natural laxative.
By the late 15th century, beets were being cultivated across Europe, both for their leaves and roots. It gained worldwide attention in just a few centuries once the French cuisine started promoting roasted beets in gourmet recipes.
Beets consumed by the Greeks and Romans were either black or white. Europeans were mostly familiar with the long, pointed cultivars. The round and deep red variants that we see today were developed somewhere around the 1800s.
What Does Beetroot Look Like?
What is the beetroot plant, and what does it look like? Here’s an overview of the plant itself, together with its parts and their uses.
We generally grow these colorful cool-season crops for their edible roots. The fleshy taproot below the soil produces vertical stems that have a deep red color. From these stems, dark green leaves appear, often with distinct purple veins.
Red beets are the classic varieties grown by most gardeners, but even cultivars that are yellow, white, pink, or with stripes are also available.
Don’t throw away those dark green leaves with distinct purple veins! Many people like to consume beet greens just as much as they enjoy the roots. Yes, they’re entirely edible!
The tender, young leaves of baby beets are best eaten fresh in salads. The longer mature leaves are cooked in much the same way as spinach or Swiss chard. And believe me or not, but the leaves from a beet plant aren't just delicious; they offer more nutrients than the root itself!
Stems from young plants can be consumed together with the leaves if they’re not too fibrous. Mature plants will have woody stems and will need to be chopped off and discarded before cooking the leaves. So how will you know if you can add stems along with beet leaves to stir-fries without ruining the meal?
Just try breaking it in half by hand. If it breaks apart easily, go ahead and toss it in the pan. If fibers hold it from breaking, it’s no good; throw it out.
Don’t Forget The Beetroot!
The root is the central part of the beetroot plant and the reason for its cultivation. They come in different colors, but the classic red variety is the most popular among most gardeners. They’re harvested once they reach the size of a golf ball.
More extensive roots turn woody and will take a long time to cook and become tender. When removing the leaves from the root, leave two inches (about 5 cm) of stem attached; this will prevent the red color from leaking out of the beets.
What Climate Do Beets Grow Best In?
It’s relatively easy to grow beetroot, and it won’t be long before you can start harvesting fresh beets from your garden. Nonetheless, it will help to know the kind of conditions that the plant prefers and grow well in. Let’s go ahead and find out what it takes to be a successful beet grower!
In What Temperature Does Beetroot Grow Best In?
Beets grow best in cooler temperatures around early spring and even in winters for mild-winter regions. The ideal soil temperature for beetroot is between 50 and 85°F (about 10 to 30°C). As long as the soil temperature is above 50°F (about 10°C), the seeds will sprout in about a week. If the temperatures are lower, you may not see any sprouting for two to three weeks.
The plant takes about 1.5 to 2 months to reach harvest. During this time, it will tolerate some frost but will bolt if the temperatures are too low. If the temperatures are higher than the ideal range, the roots may turn too woody to consume.
Beetroot is a cool-season crop that offers an adequate level of frost resistance. This makes beetroots an ideal crop for northern gardeners. You can also plant it successfully as a fall crop in most regions.
You can sow the beet seeds directly in the ground, 2 to 3 weeks before the last spring frost, and successive plantings can be made every three weeks up to mid-summer. The first round of seeds is sown about six weeks before the first fall frost for fall harvest, followed by successive planting until early fall. Zones 9 and higher can sow beet seeds throughout the fall season for a winter harvest.
Beets grow best in full sun in cooler regions and partial shade in warmer areas. Well-worked soil rich in organic matter is ideal for growth, although it will also tolerate low fertility.
Is It Safe To Eat / Consume Beetroot?
Beetroot brings bundles of benefits with it, and it’s an excellent supplement for athletes as it can enhance their physical performance. It’s also used as a natural remedy for muscle soreness after heavy physical activities, liver diseases, and if you have high blood pressure, beetroot is an excellent option!
Is beetroot good for everyone? Are there any medical conditions in which consumption of beetroot needs to be monitored? Is the plant safe for pets? Here’s a list of information about the plant that you need to know.
Pregnant And Breastfeeding Women
Beetroot is safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women as long as it’s taken in food amounts. There isn’t much information if it poses any harm if taken in large quantities. The best option is to consume it in moderate amounts.
Like most other vegetables, beets are safe for children, and kids can start to eat them from an early age when they start consuming solids. But, it’s best to offer them in food amounts.
People With Allergies
Beetroot allergies are rare. But, it may develop rashes, fever, or chills in certain hypersensitive people.
People With Diabetes
I have some good news: beetroot is an excellent plant to consume if you have diabetes. The main reason for this is because it’s rich in different nutrients and antioxidants, which is, of course, a good thing even if you don’t have diabetes.
Also, beetroots lower your risk of getting common complications linked to diabetes. Some of those complications include nerve damage and even damage to your eyes that can, in a worst-case scenario, make you blind.
People With Kidney Diseases
Beets have a high oxalate concentration, which can form crystals and develop kidney stones. If you have kidney problems or are likely to develop kidney stones, avoid consuming too many beets.
Redness Of Urine
This is a common problem linked to excessive beetroot consumption. The urine or stool may appear pink or red after having a lot of beets. But, the condition is harmless and will subside on its own.
The beetroot plant is non-toxic to pets. It can turn their feces and urine red, just like it does for humans, but no need to worry because the condition is harmless.
Featured image credit – © romiri – stock.adobe.com