Overlooked and underappreciated since they were given the awful sounding name ‘beta vulgaris’ in Latin, the humble beetroot is all too often forgotten. When you think of vegetables it doesn’t always spring to mind, but the immaculate purple root vegetable is one of the most versatile and delicious out there. Beets can not only be prepared in numerous ways, through boiling or roasting, but can also be eaten raw in salads. The root part of a beet has one of the most unique colours in the vegetable family, and has been adopted into cuisines in Eastern Europe and Asia due to the many health benefits they possess.
Interestingly, beetroot is made of 88% water, but is an excellent source of folate and manganese. Beets have been used for medicinal purposes as well, notably for their role in reducing the amount of some fancy sounding chemicals in our bodies, which can lead to cardiovascular disease if they are found too prominently. The dark colour has been utilised for centuries as a dye, firstly being adopted in the 19th century to enhance the colour of wines, and now being found in most food colourings.
Whilst this all sounds great, and beets are one of the most delectable vegetables out there, don’t go too crazy. In the First World War, food shortages led to many people eating far too many of these purple beauties, which leads to something called ‘mangelwurzel disease’. Just keep this in mind, but don’t let it stop you indulging.