Are Beets a Vegetable?
Botanical Names: Beta vulgaris
Beet or beetroot, as they are commonly called outside the United States, is a root vegetable that was domesticated in the Middle East in the 8th century B.C. This root crop originated in the Mediterranean region from the sea beet, which can still be found growing wild to this day. It was then mainly used for medicinal purposes until the 1800’s when French chefs realized its potential as a side dish. It is said that beets can help with liver disease and lower blood pressure when used in combination with some medicines. Most beets are ruby red, but also come in colors of white, golden (yellow), purple and striped.
Beets are part of the Chenopodiaceae family, also known as the Goosefoot family. Within this botanical family includes spinach, Swiss chard, quinoa among 1,500 other species. Plants within this family are typically edible and rich in calcium. Many of the family members tolerate salty and alkaline soils causing them to be ideal plants for these locations.
Beets are very much a part of U.S. history as they were first used in red velvet cake as a coloring agent, sugar beets were processed into table sugar and beets were thought to help with illnesses of digestion and blood. Beetroot is used very often as a color addition to many different foods, which one wouldn’t think; such as cereal, tomato paste, jams, ice cream and many others items.
Many do not realize that beet greens hold more nutritional value than the root itself. During the 8th century, beets were typically used for the leaves and not the root. Now, the root is typically used instead of the greens. Greens can be used in recipes that call for spinach, Swiss chard, kale or other similar leafy greens. Many enjoy beet greens raw and mixed with lettuce for a healthy salad. Make sure to use the entire plant from the leaves to the roots. Greens are cleaned and stored very similarly to chard, kale or lettuce. Then during cooking, the leaves are washed (if not done already) and the mid-vein is removed from the middle of the leaf.
It is important to know that the red color component, Betanin, cannot be broken down by the body so after eating red beets or foods that use as a color preservative that urine and stool will be dyed red commonly called beeturia. Do not be alarmed as this will work its way out of your body naturally within several days to a week at the most.
There are many fun facts to learn about this root vegetable that has been around since the 8th century and loved by many fans across the world.
- Are There Different Types of Beets?
- The Best Types of Red Beet Varieties
- How to Store Beets
- How to Prepare, Store and Freeze Beet Greens
- How to Pickle Beets
- How to Grow Beets