26 Jul

Spotlight on Beetroot

Belonging to the same family as spinach, both the leaves and root of a beetroot can be eaten. The leaves have a bitter taste whereas the round root is sweet. Beetroot is delicious eaten raw but is more typically cooked or pickled. Harvested May to November each year, beetroot prices at the Brisbane markets are generally highest in summer and lowest in winter. As we are right in the middle of the winter season, it sounds like the perfect time to enjoy them so in this post we wanted to shine a spotlight on beetroot and how you can include it into a healthy, balanced diet.

Healthy Snapshot

  • Beetroot is very low in calories and contains zero cholesterol. Beetroot is of exceptional nutritional value; especially the greens, which are rich in calcium, iron and vitamins A and C. Beetroots are an excellent source of folic acid and a very good source of fibre, manganese and potassium. The greens should not be overlooked; they can be cooked up and enjoyed in the same way as spinach.
  • Studies indicate that betaine (an antioxidant found in abundance in beetroot) may protect against liver disease – particularly the buildup of fatty deposits in the liver caused by alcohol abuse, protein deficiency, or diabetes.
  • Fibre found in beets has been shown to reduce cholesterol and triglycerides by increasing the level of HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol). Having a high level of triglycerides increases the risk for heart-related problems, so increased HDL is a good line of defence against that.
  • Drinking beet juice may help to lower blood pressure in a matter of hours. One study found that drinking one glass of beet juice lowered systolic blood pressure by an average of 4-5 points.
  • Beetroots contain a significant amount of carbohydrates that can provide fuel for energy and prolonged sports activities. These carbohydrates are the natural building blocks of energy metabolism, and beets provide them without any of the negative side effects of many other carbohydrate-heavy foods.

Tips for Selection & Storing

  • Good quality, fresh beetroots should have their greens intact. The leaves should be fresh-looking with no signs of spoilage. The beet should be firm, smooth and a vibrant red-purple, not soft or dull in colour.  
  • Smaller beets are sweeter and more tender.
  • To store fresh beets, trim the leaves about 5cm from the root as soon as you get home, as leaves will sap the moisture from the beetroot. But don’t trim the tail.
  • If you want to use the leaves and store them, make sure to use a separate plastic bag and use them within 2 days.
  • The root bulbs should also be bagged and can be stored in the fridge crisper drawer for up to 7-10 days.
  • Cooked or canned beetroot can be kept in the fridge for up to a week.
  • Raw beets don’t freeze well since they tend to become soft on thawing, however freezing cooked beetroot is fine as it can retain its flavour and texture.
  • Freshly cooked beetroot can be frozen up to ten months, just make sure to peel before freezing in an airtight container or bag. You can freeze them whole or in cut pieces.

Transportation and Availability

  • According to the ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2009, Queensland produced 39,888 tonnes of beetroot. South East Queensland’s Lockyer and Fassifern valleys supplied approx. 90% of Australia’s beetroot for processing until Heinz moved it’s beetroot growing and canning operation to New Zealand in 2013, however, this is still the hub for harvesting beetroot here in Queensland.
  • Roots are washed immediately after being harvested to remove old, dead or damaged leaves. Tops and roots are not trimmed. After harvesting and bunching, roots are chilled and sent to market as soon as possible to prevent tops wilted. Beetroot is transported in bulk for processing. On arrival, they are assessed for dirt, size and root blemishes.

Serving Ideas

  • Beetroot can be roasted, steamed, boiled, pickled or eaten raw.
  • Why not try your own homemade juice featuring beetroot? A popular combination is carrot, apple, ginger and beetroot juice.
  • You could grate raw beets and add them to coleslaw or another green salad.
  • Top roasted beets with goat cheese
  • Marinade steamed beets in fresh lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, and fresh herbs.

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