You Can’t Beat a Good Beet

Breathe properly. Stay curious. And eat your beets.

  • Tom Robbins


Listening to a food programme the other day, an audience member questioned how to stop his wife cooking beetroot for him … he hates the stuff.

I wondered quite HOW someone could hate beetroot: fabulous colour, a blood cleanser, a good source of iron and folate (naturally occurring folic acid). It also contains nitrates, betaine, magnesium and other antioxidants (notably betacyanin). More recent health claims suggest beetroot can help lower blood pressure, boost exercise performance and prevent dementia.

Olive: When did youi get a science degree?

Tilly: I used to work in the health industry.

In folklore, the beet is a symbol of love, partially because of its red shape and colour.

Olive: Tilly, you forgot, that in Greek mythology, Aphrodite, the goddess of love was said to have eaten beets to retain her beauty. If a man and a woman ate from the same beet, they were destined to fall in love.

Tilly: How wonderful is that!

Beets are a marvellous source of betaine anhydrous and tryptophan, both of which are shown to improve your mood. Betaine is a chemical that occurs naturally in the body, but is also found potently in beets, spinach, seafood, and — and, I am thrilled to learn —wine.

And it is so versatile – baked en papillote, coated with horseradish sauce, it is magic with roast (rare!) beef, chicken, pork, a terrific contrast with a cheese omelette. Don’t wrap it in aluminium foil (how did the USA get aluminum? Depriving themselves of the delight of sounding each syllable and enjoying the cadences. Al-oo-min-ee-yum.) – use greaseproof paper or brown paper. Or at least line the foil with greaseproof paper to prevent contact with food. Aluminium foil has too many links to health hazards, including Alzheimer’s, for my liking.

Beetroot curry with coconut oil and cashews (eschew the peanut – cashews or almonds are easier to digest) and sesame seeds (fine source of calcium) make for a delicious light and colourful lunch or supper. I’d give you the recipe but then I’d have to kill you. Unless you ask nicely and say pretty please …

Olive: What is with you people over there? Beetroot curry, heavens NO.

Tilly: Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.

A beetroot salad, made with grated raw beetroot, finely sliced celery (and the leaves) with a grated sharp and juicy green apple, thinly sliced red onion, toasted pumpkin seeds and a garlicky vinaigrette is wonderful with crusty sourdough bread or Irish soda bread. Add lots of fresh herbs – parsley, coriander, basil are excellent chelating agents and are just delicious.

Juice some fresh beetroots – with the leaves – add fresh parsley, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, linseeds, watermelon seeds (packed with selenium: most foods are sadly depleted of this because of artificial fertilisers), some cider vinegar or lemon juice, sea salt (don’t use table salt – contains aluminium salts to make it free flowing), black pepper (freshly ground, natch), and you have a great kick-off to the day. You could add some plain unsweetened yoghourt, if you wish, or some kefir. And it is such a gorgeous colour.

Slice some beetroots fairly thinly and layer up with sea salt, fresh black pepper, orange slices (include the peel unless there is a lot of pith) and bake with a spiced white sauce – ginger, cumin, nutmeg – poured over, with a good dukkah sprinkled (well, heaped) on top. You can layer with potatoes and/or sweet potatoes if you wish. Excellent with baked ham or fish.

Don’t forget the leaves. Steamed they are a tasty side. Shredded they provide colour, texture, taste and nutrients to a salad (abandon that tasteless iceberg lettuce! It is slow to grow, slow to digest and often the culprit when ‘marshy gases’ are about, rather than much-blamed cabbage) or mixed cooked greens – yummy with lemon, garlic and black pepper butter.

Olive: NO leave the leaves out of it…

Tilly: You surprise me, Olive – beet leaves are included in bags of mixed salad and have long been cooked as a vegetable.

Cooked and sliced – carpaccio thin – they make a delicious starter. Arrange the slices in concentric circles, drizzle the best balsamic vinegar you can afford and walnut oil, top with some peppery rocket, crumble some feta or goat’s cheese on top, add toasted pumpkin seeds … in fact, don’t invite anyone else, just eat it yourself!

Don’t waste the cooking water – wonderful to use on the vegetable patch to replace some of the minerals in our mostly depleted soil.

I’ll leave you with this thought, shared with me by a flatmate a long time ago:

A guy walks into the doctor’s office. A banana stuck in one of his ears, an asparagus stalk in the other ear, and a beet stuck in one nostril.

The man says, “Doc, this is terrible. What’s wrong with me?”

The doctor replies, “Well, first of all, you need to eat more sensibly.”

And then, there’s this:

“I said, “I’ll take the T-bone steak.”

A soft voice mooed, “Oh wow.” And I looked up and realized The waitress was a cow.

I cried, “Mistake — forget the the steak. I’ll take the chicken then.” I heard a cluck – ’twas just my luck the busboy was a hen.

I said, “Okay no, fowl today. I’ll have the seafood dish.” Then I saw through the kitchen door The cook — he was a fish.

I screamed, “Is there anyone workin’ here who’s an onion or a beet? No? You’re sure? Okay then, friends, a salad’s what I’ll eat.”

They looked at me. “Oh,no,” they said, “The owner is a cabbage head.”

  • Shel Silverstein


Olive: Tilly, the best way is either straight out of the jar, or pickled… so heavenly.

Tilly: I will eat them anyway they come, raw, pickled, boiled or roasted.


Tilly and Olive


  • Sebestiana

    Sorry Ladies, Beets are NOT on my menu….My Mum, my sister, and a few of my friends love beets. I have never acquired a taste for them, not my cuppa tea. As, I have said before, not all of us have a discerning pallet. I.E. like GARLIC….LOL…. I am sending this onto my sis, she adores beets…..Enjoyed the post.

  • Jerry Bell

    Well, I have to be honest and say I have never liked beets. I lots of people go wohoo! Over beets. My parent loved them. To me they always tasted like dirt. However, the other food I could not eat as a kid was cottage cheese, and I tried it in my mid-sixties and it was delicious. So I will give them a try. You ladies have never steered me wrong.

    • Olive

      You don’t like beets.. oh my.. if you like pickles… try the pickled beets… as for the cottage cheese… take your favorite strawberry jam and stir in a large dollop of it into the cottage cheese.. sooooooooooo very good.

    • Tilly

      Oh dear, Sebestiana. I am rather disappointed you don’t like them – wonderful with horseradish sauce (hot horseradish, none of that wimpy creamed stuff). Delicious thinly sliced (or slicedly thin as I have been known to say …) with a toasted sesame oil dressing, thin rings of red onion, baby rocket and toasted nuts. Beetroot sliced and layered with sliced potatoes and sweet potatoes (yams – the orange sweet potato), seasoned well and baked with stock or a mushroom sauce (with garlic!) – or even wine! – makes for a colourful and tasty accompaniment to baked ham, roast pork or chicken … the possibilities are endless!

    • Tilly

      Hmm … maybe the beets were large and had been growing for a long time. Take a chance and try some baby beets – sweet and fabulous colour. Wonderful raw or cooked – see suggestions above and more offered to tempt Sebestiana. I love the leaves too – but small. Delicious steamed and dressed with seseame oil, soy sauce, maybe some ginger or chili or wth grated orange rind … so much choice!

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