When I was a lad, beetroot came into the house ready made. Golden Circle was the brand of choice according to my mother, if I recall correctly. Mostly pre-sliced, with the occasional foray into the unsliced, baby beet variety. Summer would be heralded with the purchase of tins of cubed beetroot. Regardless of the shape of their contents they all tasted the same. For years I assumed beetroot was a salty purple thing, with a natural sharp vinegary bite. The closest it ever got to hot food was as an option on a shop bought hamburger (authentic “Fish and Chip/Burger bars” in Australia still today give the option of a slice of pineapple or a slice of beetroot on the burger). It was certainly never served as a vegetable along with dinner.
Tinned beetroot is no longer welcome in the VegHead’s kitchen. Whether sliced or cube or whole, it is all bought fresh and home cooked. For salad beetroot, use Apple Cider Vinegar as it is significantly less “vinegary” than wine vinegars and will therefore not dominate the flavour. Slice off the stems and thoroughly scrub all dirt from the ball of the root with a brush and water. Boil (or pressure cook) until tender in a large pot of water. Once cooked, the skin will simply slide off in your hand under cold water. Preserve in the same water you cooked the beet root in, together with a teaspoon of sea salt. Once cooled, add a tablespoon of vinegar.
Beetroot has now made its way onto the dinner plate in a number of ways; roasted, stir fried, lending its purple majesty to curries. Raw it is grated into salads and sandwiches; juiced together with carrots and celery it is a vivid liver detoxing wonder.
Every part of the beetroot plant is edible. The leaves can be used as an alternative to spinach or kale. The leaf stems can be steamed or stir fried.
How to choose beetroot:
- always choose beetroot that still has the stems and leaves attached. When fresh the stems are firm and crispy like fresh celery. If they have been cut off it is a sure sign that the beetroot is old enough for the stems to have gone all flippy floppy.
- in the absence of stems, choose beetroots that are as hard as possible. The flesh will soften with age. If they have give when pressed with a finger – put them back and move on.
- small beetroots are better than huge beetroots