The Beauty of Beets

By Jordan Laio, Hometalk

The stereotypical beet of today is a large, sweet, crimson bulb. There are in fact many varieties of beets which come in different colors, from golden to alternating white-and-pink, to white, and each variety has its own nuanced flavor and lends itself to different methods of cooking, including roasting and sauteing.

Beets, Beta vulgaris, are in the Chenopodiaceae or “Goosefoot family” and are closely related to chard. The ancestor of modern cultivated beet varieties is known as “sea beet,” which still grows wild throughout the Mediterranean. However, it doesn’t have much of a root bulb to speak of –  it is harvested for its leaves.

According to William Woys Weaver in 100 Vegetables and Where They Came From, the beet was domesticated by 800 BCE but hadn’t yet fully developed some of the characteristics by which we know it today. By 100 CE there are records of round, red bulbous beets, but farmers were still developing it into our modern varieties. By the 16th century, fodder beets are recorded as existing in Europe. These are large and coarse beet roots used mainly as livestock feed. The bulbs can sometimes grow to 15 pounds.

The modern sugar beet was created in the 18th century in Europe as a reaction to Europeans’ addiction to sugar. The stage had been set by Andreas Marggraf discovering the ability to isolate sugar from beets in 1747. Another European, Moritz Baron von Koppy, had developed the white Silesian, the ancestor of all modern sugar beets, around 1800. When the English blocked the shipment of sugar into Europe during the Napoleonic wars in the beginning of the 19th century, the beet sugar industry, of necessity, was born. The sugar beet first made its way to the United States later in that century and is still enjoyed to this day.

Beets are hardy garden vegetables and will grow in all types of soil. Seeds germinate after 8-10 days. They are considered a cool weather crop but will bolt if exposed to temperatures below 40 to 50 degrees for too many days.

A look through any heirloom seed catalogue reveals the diversity in beets available. Some popular varieties are the flat Egyptian beet, Chioggia, and Bull’s Blood. Unfortunately, many people think they don’t like beets because their only experience has been with canned beets. Most people do not even know that beets also have edible (and quite tasty) leaves.

Next: Moroccan Beets Recipe

Image: puck77/stock.xchng

There are many variations on Moroccan beet salad, but this is a good beet recipe with which to start: Use high quality, fresh, organically grown beets if you can get them. This recipe is inspired by a recipe in Faye Levy’s 1,000 Jewish Recipes.

Moroccan Beets

Yield: 2-3 servings


4-5 small beets, or 2-3 large

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 medium clove garlic, pressed or finely minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

How to

Chop stems and leaves off beets if present. (These can be used in the same manner as chard.) Rinse beets and put in saucepan covered by at least one inch of water, bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on low heat for 30-40 minutes, or until tender (shorter for small beets, longer for larger).

When tender, pour out hot water and replace with cool water in order to cool beets. Once cool enough to handle, peel skins. They should slip off easily. Cut beets into 1/2-inch cubes, or a different size as you prefer.

Mix lemon juice and other ingredients in a bowl and pour over beets. Toss gently and serve cold or at room temperature.

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Dale O.

Have always enjoyed tasting the beauty of the beet!

Jan Mach
Jan Mach3 years ago

Thanks for the recipe, I'm going to try. I like all ingredients but salt. :-)

Joy Wong
Joy Wong3 years ago

Thanks for sharing. I have never had beets before but I am going try it.

Donna Hamilton
Donna Hamilton4 years ago

Thanks for posting.

Lori B.
Lori B.4 years ago

I also saved the blood red water left over and threw it in the freezer. I was going to use it as "red" to dye eggs this easter. :)

Lori B.
Lori B.4 years ago

I LOVE LOVE LOVE beets! I steamed up 3 big ones and ate plain with splash of lemon & feta. Sooo fantastic!

Anna Ballinger
Anna Ballinger4 years ago

My guy loves beets. I plant them just for him looking for new recipes to try. Thank you for the article and recipe.

Marsha Vaughan
Marsha Vaughan4 years ago

Used to get teased for liking/eating beets.....fine by me:) I usually juice them now, but will try this recipe. Thank you.

Patricia Pereira

Thanks for the recipe! *.*

Chinmayee Jog
Chinmayee Jog4 years ago

I love steamed beets!! In India we steam them then either season them with lime and salt or mix them in with yoghurt, so yummy!!