Bronwen is interested in food, diet, and creating recipes, as she has prepared family meals and organised church and home functions.
A Potted History of Beetroot
Beetroot belongs to the Chenopodiaceae Family and is related to turnips, swedes, sugar beet, chard and even Quinoa. It is believed to have descended from wild sea-beet that grew around the Mediterranean coastlines. It is wind-pollinated. The leaves have been eaten since Pre-history times and are still eaten traditionally at the celebration of the Passover.
Celtic Origins: Beetroot has been cultivated for its leaves since about 2,000 BC; it was probably first eaten and spread by Celtic tribes as they moved around; its name is of Celtic origin. Early Celtic women also used dried and powdered beetroot as lipstick and rouge.
- About 1000 BC, Beetroot was being used in Egypt.
- Around 300 BC it is recorded that the leaves were cultivated and eaten by the Greeks and offered to Apollo at his temple in Delphi and also to Aphrodite, the Goddess of love; her romantic powers were attributed to beetroot causing it to be regarded as an aphrodisiac.
- The Romans also cultivated beetroot for its leaves.
- By the eighth century BC beetroot's colourful leaves were included in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
- It was mentioned as being in Britain, perhaps taken there by the Romans, but then it was not mentioned there again until around 1400.
- It reached China by 850 AD.
Only the leaves were used and it did not develop as bulbous until the 1600s.
Uses of Beetroot
Beetroot was used both medicinally and as a dye from very early times.
Beetroot as Medicine: The long, thin root was prepared and taken internally for fevers and as a laxative by the Romans.
Preparations made from beetroot were also used for the treatment of wounds and skin problems.
Beetroot as a Dye: Beetroot has been used as an ingredient of ink. Beetroot powder is used today as a natural colouring agent in a wide variety of foods including the improvement of the colour of tomato paste and sauces. It is also used in desserts, jams, jellies and iceream.
Beetroot and Nutrition
Beetroot is a rich source of antioxidants and vitamins. The leaves are rich in Vitamin A and the root or bulb in Vitamin C. Nutrients include magnesium, potassium and betaine. Beetroot is low in calories.
Betaine is important for cardiovascular health and may also protect against liver disease, especially reducing the build up of fatty deposits that are caused by diabetes and over-indulgence of alcohol.
The Benefits of Beetroot Juice: Due to the high nitrate level in beetroot juice, it can relax the muscles and help lower blood pressure. It has also shown that half a litre can improve the performance of athletes. It is also said to be useful as an antidepressant.
Beetroot recipes have been greatly varied over the centuries. The leaves have been served as a green vegetable, as salad, and the bulb has been roasted, grilled and boiled or served raw and shredded, mixed with salad cream.
- The early Romans cooked beetroot leaves with honey and wine.
- Norse and Slav people made the juice into a fermented drink called Kuas, after Kuasir, the Norse god of Inspiration.
- Beetroot soup made with the bulb is a popular vegetarian dish and its cold counterpart is enjoyed as Borscht.
- The Victorians used it in salads, soups and as an ingredient in cakes and puddings.
One thing to observe is that the pigment leaks easily during cook. The best way to cook beetroot is to leave the skin on to help prevent this leakage. It is easily removed after cooking, but you may end up with pink hands. However, it washes off fairly easily. The pigment is stabilised by acid, which is why the use of vinegar is so popular.
Warning to Beetroot Lovers: Over-indulgence may result in urine and stools becoming tinted a reddish colour as the body does not break down the pigment.
The following is a simple recipe that is popular in our family in the summer. It requires few ingredients and can be made even simpler by using tinned beetroot and packet jelly. It is delightful refreshing and a colourful addition to a summer salad.
Rate this Easy Recipe
- 3 medium-sized beetroots, OR one 425 g tin sliced beetroot
- 3 teaspoons gelatine, OR a packet of Port Wine Jelly
- 125 ml hot water, plus 350 ml cold liquid
- vinegar, if using home-cooked beetroot
- Place beetroot in a pot, cover with water and cook; remove, cool, peel and slice; retain liquid. OR open tin of sliced beetroot; drain and retain liquid.
- Pour hot water into a container, add gelatine; stir until dissolved. If using a mould or weather is hot, add extra teaspoon of gelatine. If using home-cooked beetroot, add vinegar to taste to 350 ml cold liquid. Add cold liquid to make mixture up to 500 ml.
- Place beetroot slices in mould or other container; pour liquid over; remove bubbles. Refrigerate until set. Will keep in refrigerator for several days.
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© 2013 Bronwen Scott-Branagan
Bronwen Scott-Branagan (author) from Victoria, Australia on September 13, 2014:
Jackie Lynnley: I did not see your comment until today, so I hope that your got your beetroot and that the recipe was a success.
Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on December 09, 2013:
I am sorry I missed this for I love beets and I have never heard of beet jelly and instantly know it would be so good! Thank you, I will put beets on my bill and take a cold day soon to warm the house with the smell of beet jelly! I have such cute little jars I save just for something like this. Thank you so much.
Bronwen Scott-Branagan (author) from Victoria, Australia on February 25, 2013:
MsDora: Thank you, I think it's interesting, too. I hope you try the recipe, it adds colour as well as a different flavour.
unknown spy: Haven't you? In Australia, beetroot is frequently added to hamburgers in most take-away shops. It also comes in tins and is quite popular - must be the Celtic background of many Aussies.
Life Under Construction from Neverland on February 25, 2013:
i never really tasted beetroot before..or maybe i have but all in all, very good hub
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on February 25, 2013:
Good information on beets, and I'd like to try the recipe sometime. Thanks for this valuable article.
Bronwen Scott-Branagan (author) from Victoria, Australia on January 24, 2013:
Lipnancy: What a pity! That was disappointing. They do seem to get like that sometimes and then they don't taste so good, although with stronger vinegar the taste can be masked a little.
Nancy Yager from Hamburg, New York on January 23, 2013:
I love beets. Our beats were very earthy this year and I did not enjoy them as much as I usually do.
Bronwen Scott-Branagan (author) from Victoria, Australia on January 05, 2013:
Eiddwen: An especially Celtic gastronomical delight. Thank you for your vote and share. I hope you have a great weekend, too, my hub-friend.
Eiddwen from Wales on January 05, 2013:
Useful and interesting Blossom ;thanks for sharing and I vote up.
Have a great weekend.
Bronwen Scott-Branagan (author) from Victoria, Australia on January 05, 2013:
davenmidtown: It's a different season where you are, so you might need to wait for a while.
Genna East: Do try it. As well as being low-calory, they add such colour to a salad. I always think that when I just boil beetroot and use them as a vegetable they taste a bit like sweetcorn.
Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on January 03, 2013:
I've never been fond of beets or beetroot, but your hub has me rethinking this. Very helpful and interesting, thank you. :-)
David Stillwell from Sacramento, California on January 03, 2013:
I will try this... just as soon as the beets in the garden are ready!
Bronwen Scott-Branagan (author) from Victoria, Australia on January 03, 2013:
Michele Travis: I'm glad you want to try it, certainly copy it and have a go! I'm sure it will turn out well and hope that you enjoy it, too.
billybuc: Now why wouldn't you try it? You seem an adventurous type - 'Try anything once" (within reason) is my motto. Hope your wife enjoys making it - and enjoys it.
Davenmidtown: Good to hear from you. Thanks for sharing. Are you going to try it as well?
vibesites: Glad you enjoyed reading and thank you for your votes.
Amaryllis: Blackcurrant jelly would work well, too, I'm sure. My mother used to do something similar with a mould for special occasions, too.
shiningirisheyes: It is delicious and I like the fact that it is also healthy and with not too many calories. That's interesting about the use of the dye in Tudor times.
Shining Irish Eyes from Upstate, New York on January 03, 2013:
Blossom - this looks like it would be delicious.
I also read somewhere that the Tudor period used beet root to bring out the royal purple of their wardrobe.
Lesley Charalambides from New Hampshire on January 03, 2013:
My father used to make this regularly, although for some reason I had completely forgotten about it. As a variation, you can use something like a blackcurrant jelly instead of gelatine, some people find that easier to handle. When we had parties he used to make a large layered version using an elaborate mould, and adding other vegetables and pieces of hard boiled egg. It was often the centerpiece of the buffet, and people were always fascinated to find that it was savory, rather than sweet.
Thanks for posting this, and reminding me!
vibesites from United States on January 03, 2013:
Very informative hub about beetroot, along with its bit of history. Stunning pics as well. Voted up and useful/interesting. :)
David Stillwell from Sacramento, California on January 02, 2013:
BlossomSB: What a beautiful Hub and your photography is outstanding. I love all the small details you put into things! awesome! am sharing this.
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 02, 2013:
Bev might eat it; I'm pretty sure I wouldn't, but who knows. I'll give her this and we'll see what happens. :)
Michele Travis from U.S.A. Ohio on January 02, 2013:
The recipe sounds and looks wonderful. If you don't mind, I would like to print it out and try to cook it later. I have cooked a lot of meals that have already been "Prepared" Just put them in the microwave and that is about it.
I am going to try to start cooking now. Soooo, if you don't mind, this is one of the recipes I would like to add to my list.