Cooking the beets

Mediterranean Diet presents you today some valuable tips on cooking the beets and how to use and how to preserve the beets.

Historical evidence

Beet, also called “beetroot“, is a native of North Africa, and was already known in 420 BC, as “beta”. During the centuries, the cultivation of beets began to expand throughout Spain and France, thanks to the crops in monasteries and, only later, thanks to the farmers. In the fifteenth century it came to the rest of Europe, where, initially, it was consumed only the leaves. Only in a second time, in fact, people began to consume also the root, especially the root of the red beet. According to studies of some authors, the origin of beetroot dates back to 2000 BC, given the presence of some archaeological finds that attest it.

The plant

The beet is a biennial herbaceous plant, rarely perennial, with stems that can reach 1-2 meters in height. The leaves are heart-shaped, 5-20 cm long on wild plants (more large in cultivated plants). The flowers are very small, with a diameter of 3-5 mm, green or reddish, with five petals; They are collected in dense spikes and have anemophilous pollination. The fruit consists in a group of hard nuts. In the northern regions it is planted in spring and harvested from the end of August. In the south, beets have a autumn-winter life cycle, to reduce contractions in the yield of roots and sugar, due to the greater intensity of breathing processes caused by the higher temperatures.

How to choose the beets?

When buying, the beet should appear firm, smooth and dark red, without stains or mold. If you have to cook more beets simultaneously, it could be better if you choose same size beets, so they cook evenly. Very large size beets can be fibrous.

In supermarket

You can find beets ready for use, without leaves and root, in convenient vacuum packs. Beet already clean and vacuum packed, brings the expiration date printed on the package.

How to preserve beets?

Fresh beets, which comes with more leaves and the root, need to be preserved in the refrigerator or in a cool, wet, up to 4 weeks. If you want, you can also freeze it; in this case you have to boil it for 3-4 minutes before storing in freezer bags or containers tightly closed.

Uses in the kitchen

From beets are consumed both leaves (chard or beet) that the roots.
The beets can be eaten raw, slicing or grating, dressed with oil, salt, and pepper, according to taste, a little ‘of vinegar or lemon.
If you prefer to cook it, it can be eaten either hot or cold topped with a vinaigrette or combined with salads. The beet leaves can be cooked like spinach and herbs.

As with most vegetables, it is better to choose not to cook them in order to keep intact properties and nutrients.

The beets are used even in risotto with gorgonzola and taleggio, for example, or to give color to sauces. Its characteristic bright red coloration is exploited for the preparation of the Borsch, a typical soup from eastern Europe, prepared with finely chopped beet and served with the sour cream.

Growing areas

The beets are cultivated in countries with temperate climate. In Italy the areas of greater production are the Po Valley and the provinces of Rovigo and Ferrara.

Properties and nutritional value

The Beets are a concentration of essential elements to human health. Besides being rich in sugars, minerals and vitamins and other useful substances, the beetroot have dietary and healthy properties: absorbs toxins from the cells and facilitates its elimination, purifying, mineralizing, antiseptic, tonic, improves digestion, stimulates the bile production and strengthens the gastric mucosa, stimulates the production of red blood cells, dissolves the calcium deposits in the blood vessels, finally stimulates the lymphatic system.

It is recommended the consumption of beetroot especially to those who feel tired, and influenced, for those suffering from constipation or improve liver functions or fight urinary tract infections.

The beets contains betaine, which is useful to strengthen the capillaries and maintain a healthy cardiovascular system. Attenuates inflammation of the digestive system and helps to fight liver diseases.

Contraindications

Instead, it is not recommended to eat beets to those suffering from gastritis, as it increases the production of gastric juices, to those who suffer from kidney stones, since turnips are rich in oxalates and to diabetics because, especially cooked, contains sugar beet.

Cooking the beets

Today, some of our experts will have a delicious recipe with beets:

Risotto with beetroot and gorgonzola

Ingredients:
– 320 g of rice (Vialone nano is better)
– 150 g of cooked beetroot
– 1 onion
– 40 g of butter
– 70 g of roasted hazelnuts
– 50 g grated Parmesan cheese
– 50 ml cream
– 80 g of sweet gorgonzola
– Vegetable broth
– Extra virgin olive oil
– Salt
– Pepper

Procedure:
1) In a casserole, stew the finely chopped onion. Then add the rice, let’s toast well and add the vegetable broth. Let it cook on low heat.
2) Meanwhile, blend beets with an immersion blender, adding the vegetable broth: when we got a smooth sauce, transfer it into a bowl and put in the refrigerator.
3) In a saucepan, heat the cream, add the gorgonzola, creating a fondue and keep it warm.
4) A few minutes before the rice cooking, add the cream and beetroot, mix with butter and grated Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Let stand for 3 minutes.
5) Serve rice with nuts and gorgonzola fondue.

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