10 Neat Things about beets

Alberta Gardener Magazine - - Contents - By Dorothy Dob­bie

1. Blood turnip.

Beets or beet­root, as they are known in the United King­dom, evolved from a wild plant, the sea beet, that grows by the sea­side. Wild beets were mainly har­vested for their spinach-tast­ing leaves, which are rich in boron, a metal that plays a role in hu­man sex hor­mone pro­duc­tion. Beets were once con­sid­ered an aphro­disiac. The greens of all turnips con­tain vast amounts of lutein (about 250 mi­cro­grams per cup of greens), which is an es­sen­tial for eye health. How­ever, it is doubt­ful that this is where the toast, “Here’s blood in your eye” orig­i­nated. There is also a va­ri­ety of beet called ‘Early Blood’, a turnip-rooted her­itage va­ri­ety that was in­tro­duced to the New World in 1820.

2. Heart and liver lover.

Beets get their blood-red colour, not from an­tho­cyanins as do most red veg­eta­bles, but from the be­ta­lains, be­tanin and vul­gax­an­thin, a yel­low plant pig­ment. Be­ta­lains are anti-ox­i­dant, an­ti­in­flam­ma­tory pig­ments. Be­tain is es­sen­tial for heart health and has other won­der­ful prop­er­ties that help pro­tect your liver by re­duc­ing the ac­cu­mu­la­tion of liver fat de­posits caused by al­co­hol abuse, pro­tein de­fi­ciency and di­a­betes. Other great side ef­fects from eat­ing beets in­clude in­creased blood flow be­cause the ni­trates in beets trig­ger va­sodi­la­tion. Also as­so­ci­ated with beet con­sump­tion is the re­duc­tion in a wide num­ber of tu­mour cells.

3. When is a beet not a beet?

The an­swer is when it’s Swiss chard, Beta vul­garis, sub­species, ci­cla. Swiss chard is highly nu­tri­tious al­though, like rhubarb, it con­tains small amounts of ox­alic acid. Both chard and table beets evolved from sea beets. All beet leaves are full of good things, so eat your beet greens and get pro­tein, mag­ne­sium, man­ganese, cop­per, potas­sium, cal­cium and iron.

4. What else is in it for me?

In ad­di­tion to be­tains and all the ex­otic ben­e­fits they be­stow through the in­ges­tion of beets, the veg­etable pro­vides us with a re­ally healthy dose of vi­ta­mins A, B and C. They are packed with fo­lates (136 mcg per cup). A cup of beets con­tains 2.68 grams of pro­tein, 16.9 grams of car­bo­hy­drates, 3.4 grams of fi­bre and only 74.8 calo­ries!

5. Faster, longer, lower and some­times, red­der.

Long dis­tance run­ners have been proven to run five per cent faster af­ter eat­ing beets. Not only that, but drink­ing beet juice has been found to re­duce blood pres­sure by two per cent. About 10 to 15 per cent of peo­ple will ex­pe­ri­ence red urine or red in the stool af­ter eat­ing beets. This is called bee­turia and while it is harm­less, it may in­di­cate that you have dif­fi­culty me­tab­o­liz­ing iron or have a de­fi­ciency or ex­cess of iron.

Beets have been cul­ti­vated for thou­sands of years and were a favourite among the Ro­mans. Sugar beets are a much more re­cent phe­nom­e­non. The spe­cial prop­er­ties of Beta vul­garis sub­species vul­garis were dis­cov­ered in 1747 by a pro­fes­sor of physics in Berlin. He found that the sugar in beets was sim­i­lar in its prop­er­ties to that in sugar cane. Half a cen­tury later, one of his stu­dents be­gan cul­ti­vat­ing beets bred for their higher sugar con­tent. The first sugar beet plant was opened in Sile­sia in 1801. By 1837, there were 542 fac­to­ries in France, pro­duc­ing 35,000 tonnes of sugar.

7. Eat the beet, but how?

Beets can be eaten raw or cooked and so can their leaves. Beet greens, steamed, will taste like strong spinach. Har­vest them when they are young. The root can be cooked with the skin in­tact – the skin can be eaten or sim­ply rubbed off with a pa­per towel af­ter cook­ing. Any red beet stains on your fin­gers can be erased with a lit­tle lemon. Keep­ing the skin on dur­ing cook­ing helps to main­tain nu­tri­ents. Beets should never be boiled or steamed for more than 15 min­utes and avoid roast­ing for more than 60 min­utes. The longer they cook, the more loss of the be­ta­lain.

8. Car­rots, horseradish and ham­burg­ers.

Peo­ple in many Nordic coun­tries eat beets as borscht, a ruby­coloured soup. Oth­ers are more cre­ative. In Poland, beets are mixed with horseradish for a won­der­fully hot condi­ment. In the United Em­pire Emi­rates, they add pick­led beets to ham­burg­ers. Pick­ling is a favoured method of serv­ing beets. Try them with car­rots and a bit of brown sugar and but­ter. Or roast them in the oven with car­rots and parsnips and fin­ish with a dash of bal­samic vine­gar.

9. Plant some beets.

Beets are easy to grow. They ger­mi­nate in 10 to 12 days (some­times as soon as five days) in soil that is above 10 de­grees C. They ma­ture in 55 to 60 days. Sow the seeds a half-inch deep and two to four inches apart in rows about 12 to 18 inches apart. Soil should be light and loamy. Thin the beets to three to six inches apart when the first sow­ing is up about two inches. Keep them evenly moist but not wet. Seed life is gen­er­ally about three years.

10. Beets’ best friends.

Beets are good friends to ev­ery­one be­cause they add min­er­als to the soil. The greens are very good for com­post. They are happy com­pan­ions to bush beans (but not pole beans), bras­si­cas, corn, gar­lic, let­tuce, leeks and mint.

10 Neat Things is a free weekly news­let­ter of in­ter­est­ing and quirky facts about your gar­den and na­ture. Sign up to­day visit lo­cal­gar­dener.net.

Beets are good com­pan­ion plants to many veg­eta­bles and also add nu­tri­ents back to the soil.

Drink­ing beet juice has been found to help lower blood pres­sure.

Borscht is good food.

Beet greens can be a tasty treat.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.