What is it?
Beetroot is the taproot portion of the beet plant, often known as simply the beet. The leaves are also edible, often called beet greens. British beetroot is usually available from July to January, but some may linger on until February or March. Choose firm beetroot with fresh (unwilted) stalks.
What to do with it
The bulbous, dark purple roots are eaten boiled or roasted and sometimes raw in salads. Beetroot juice is also popular. It can also be used to make wine
Beetroot has made a bit of a comeback recently. It had very bad press for a while. Anyone who experienced typical British cuisine in the 1960s and 70s will remember the pickled abomination which came in jars. Many people were put off beetroot for life because of this. But those who have the courage to try it again minus the industrial pickling process often find they like the rich, sweet, earthy taste.
I am convinced that my childhood beetroot horror story is shared by countless other unfortunates, and that’s why beetroot isn’t used more often. The other reason could be that it stains everything – if you don’t scrub like a thing possessed, you can end up red-handed for weeks.
Source: Gregg Wallace, Veg – the greengrocer’s cookbook
There are other varieties and colours of beetroot but some are relatively rare, eg the golden beetroot.
To boil beetroot cut off the root tips, leaves and stem but leave a little bit of the stem to prevent the beetroot from bleeding. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the beetroot and simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes – depending on its size. It’s ready when a fork passes through easily. Drain and let cool a little, then peel and season. (Note, don’t peel the beetroot before boiling or the colour will bleed out.)