Beetroot is a great veg and is in season from around
the end of June to the end of January.
Beetroot is a great vegetable with a myriad of uses. It can be grated, chopped, boiled, baked, microwaved, roasted, pickled, frozen and no doubt treated in many other ways.
Many people are fearful of beetroot as the colour bleeds out when preparing it and can stain your hands (temporarily), your clothes (in some cases permanently) and make your urine pink tinged or even red. The colour in beetroot comes from pigments called betacyanins.
According to Bandolier (evidence based thinking in health care), the colour in urine is because:
“These are acid/base indicators that are structurally unstable at extremes of pH, and have optical stability at pH 4 to 5. Red colour in urine, therefore, is dependent on urine pH. For the urine to be red, unchanged beetroot pigments have to be absorbed, and excreted.
During digestion beetroot pigments are subjected to changes in pH, especially the low pH in the stomach. At a pH of 2, found in the fasting stomach, the betacyanins are rapidly decomposed. Conditions where stomach pH is higher, and where there is rapid gastric emptying, would be more likely to cause coloured urine after eating beetroot.
All of which makes it unsurprising that all of us have beetroot pigments in our urine after eating beetroot. In most, though, the colour is too faint to see with the naked eye, though clearly present when investigated by chromatography in the laboratory. Older research indicated anything between 0% and 90% prevalence of red urine after eating beetroot.
What makes urine red depends. It depends on the type of beetroot, the way it is prepared, how much is eaten, what else is eaten, and other factors, like protective effects of oxalic acid.”
Harold McGee, in his fantastic book “On Food and Cooking” , states that:
“the ability to metabolize the bright red pigment, betacyanin, is controlled by a single genetic locus, those people who have inherited two recessive genes pass the pigment in their urine.
Nutritionally beetroot is high in antioxidants, magnesium, potassium, sodium and vitamin c.
Beetroot stains are difficult to remove, it depends on haste. Dab with a paste made from detergent and water, leave for a while and then soak in luke warm water is one tried and tested method.
Anyway the title of this post is ways with beetroot, so here are some suggestions of what to do with your harvest or purchase:
(If you are boiling beetroot, the best method is to wash the unpeeled beet and trim leaves to 3cm above the root. If you peel the beetroot first or trim the leaves to the root, the colour will bleed out. This will affect the taste to a degree, but mainly make it more difficult to handle).
- Grate raw beetroot with apple (I like it with beetroot:apple 2:1, but you can have more apple if you like) and dress with lemon juice, orange zest and a touch of olive oil
- Boil or roast beetroot and dress with freshly chopped dill and parsley and orange zest. You can add a bit of olive oil and cider vinegar if you fancy.
- Cut equal quantities of beetroot and carrot into matchstick pieces, dress with lime, olive oil and sesame seeds.
- Add some boiled, diced beetroot to a classic potato salad (it will go a lovely colour).
- Beetroot, roasted or raw, cut into matchstick pieces with fennel and samphire is delicious (great served with pan fried sea-bass or similar).
- Cooked beetroot goes really well with smoked fish, like mackerel. Try adding some watercress and new potatoes and serve with crème fraiche with a bit of grated horseradish.
- Just boil whole, peel whilst still hot and slice. Add slices of onion, some juniper berries, freshly chopped dill and cover with cider vinegar. Leave for at least one day before eating.
- Borscht, Felicity Cloake’s recipe is fab
- If you boil some beetroot with beef stock, then blitz it and add finely diced spring onions and creamed horseradish, this is delicious hot or cold.
- Beetroot and orange soup garnished with fennel is good too.
- Roast beetroot is great with roasted meats, particulary beef (If the beetroot are large, I parboil them first).
- Daupinoise potatoes made with half the potatoes substituted with beetroot is absolutely delicious.
- When making humus, add some cooked beetroot to the chick peas when pureeing.
- Boiled beetroot is a great vegetable to serve with fish, particularly mackerel, salmon and trout.
- Roasted root vegetables, including beetroot with feta is delicious. Try topped with a savoury walnut crumble.
- Cakes can be made with beetroot. It adds an amazing depth of colour to a chocolate cake. This beetroot, orange and juniper cake is quite delicious.
- With cheese (cottage, sheeps, Wenslydale etc) in a sandwich
- Pickle: I boil, peel when hot and then place in sterilised jars either whole (if tiny) or in slices, covered in malt vinegar. You can add coriander seeds, peppercorns, juniper berries and bay leaves.
- Freeze: Boil (ensure not too soft, better a bit firm), and leave to cool in water. Freeze whole and unpeeled. This can then be used for salads, roasting etc.