Beetroot is a nutritious root vegetable with a purplish-pink flesh, pink stems and green leaves. It has a fairly sweet flavour and can be used in both sweet and savoury recipes.
Fresh beetroot is available from July – February/March each year, but can be bought all year round in vacuum packs or pickled, in jars.
Look for firm, intact roots that are free of cuts or any other damage. The beetroot leaves should look green and fresh and not appear wilted or brown.
Wash the beetroot well, but don’t peel the skin. Cut off the stems so that only about 3cm is left attached, and don’t cut into the beetroot or trim the root as this will make the colour – and important nutrients - leak out during cooking. Simmer the washed roots in water for about 45 minutes, until soft. Once cool enough to handle, slip off the skins and use the beetroot in your chosen recipe. Beetroot can also be roasted and then diced and added to pasta dishes, stews and salads; or blended into soups and dips. Try tossing raw, grated beetroot with shredded lettuce, carrot and onion for a colourful coleslaw, or extract its juice and mix with apple, pear or carrot juice for a nutritious drink. In sweet recipes, beetroot is often added to cake batter and its vibrant-coloured pink juice can be used to ice cakes and biscuits. If the leaves are fresh, don’t throw them away - toss them into salads where they will add nutrients and colour.
Beetroot will keep in a cool, dark place for 2-3 weeks. It can also be frozen: cook the beetroot, peel it and allow to cool before sealing in a freezer bag.