With many nutrients in few calories beets boast an impressive nutritional profile. Although most consumers know red beet best as a pickled vegetable or an ingredient in dishes like salads or borscht, there is far more to this versatile vegetable than many might imagine. In fact, much more of the world’s beet is destined for use as an food ingredient than is prepared for retail sale.
Widespread and rising consumer interest in healthy diets is driving the current demand for red beet. Its juice is a popular standalone healthy beverage, or it can be blended with other fruits and vegetables like apple, carrot, strawberry or passionfruit. In addition to providing nutritious juice and puree, red beet is an effective colouring food, enabling manufacturers to avoid the use of artificial colours in both sweet and savoury applications like ice cream, yoghurts, desserts, confectionery, jams, soups and sauces.
Beet (beta vulgaris) has been cultivated for thousands of years – its origins trace back to Roman times. It grows best in a relatively cool (and consistent) climate of approx. 15-19 °C, in sunny sites and well-drained soil. For these reasons, Poland, Russia, France, Italy and the USA are the world’s five largest beet-producing regions.
Beet is fast-growing, taking only around two months from germination to maturity. Harvesting should take place when the vegetables weigh approx. 150g, although they can grow to over 400g.
Although beet taproots can be yellow in colour, most cultivars are red. Their intense red colour is attributable to the betanins they contain. As well as this captivating colour, beet is an excellent source of vitamins C and A, and folate. Its health benefits continue to be widely researched. What is more, because beet contains more natural sugar than even carrots or sweetcorn, it is an excellent way to boost sweetness in foods and drinks, without adding sugar or using artificial sweeteners.