Different Beet Varieties
What is Beet?
Also known as table beet, red beet, garden beet or golden beet, beet is a plant with an edible taproot and leaves, known as beet greens. It is one of the 4 or 5 species of the Beta vulgaris varieties grown for different uses. The plant is classified under the group vulgaris Conditiva and belongs to the Chenopodiaceae family.
The different beet varieties include spinach and chard (also known as silver beet) beet (leafy vegetables), sugar beet from which table sugar is produced, the fodder crop mangelwurzel (field beet) and garden beet or beetroot.
Beet is a herbaceous perennial or biennial plant that grows up to 120 cm in height. However, cultivated beet varieties are biennial plants with white, dark red, brown or yellow roots. Whereas wild beets are woody and swollen with fibrous, cultivated beet species are fleshy and swollen.
Green Beet Leaves
Beet plants are simple and feature erect stems with branching on the upper sections. Wild species, on the other hand, are often procumbent. The plants have striate and ribbed surfaces. Beet basal leaves are white, red or yellow with long yet thick petioles.
Featuring slightly fleshy and simple leaf blades, beet leaves are either heart-shaped or oblanceolate with dark red to dark green pigment. The leaves undulate at the margins or in entirety with prominent midribs. Unlike cultivated beet varieties, wild species have longer midribs. The smaller, upper leaves feature narrow or rhombic blades.
Beet has a rich history. It is believed to have originated in North Africa over 4000 years ago from where it spread to other parts of the world. With origins in various parts of the world, beet has been associated with the neolithics.
Wild beet species are often found along major coastal lines worldwide. During the Middle Age, beet was used to treat various conditions such as blood and digestion problems.
Beet does well in stony or sandy beaches, coastal cliffs, coastal grasslands, salt marshes and disturbed or ruderal areas. This explains why wild beets are found along the Atlantic coasts, including southeast, southwestern and northern Europe, in North Africa along the Mediterranean Sea, western Asia and Macaronesia.
Cultivated beets thrive in cool temperatures ranging from 15 to 19 degrees C. Therefore they're grown worldwide in frost-free regions. On the other hand, leaf beets do well in warmer climates. Beets grow in neutral or alkaline soils with the capability to withstand drought and salty soils.
Uses of Beet
Beet can be used as food, for its nutritious content, in research and as an essential part of traditional medicine. Some beet leaves are used as herbs, vegetables, pickles, salads, etc.
Sliced and Pickled Beetroot
Beet is rich in manganese (25%) and folate (16%) with traces of table fat and proteins. it also contains water (88%), 43 calories and carbs. It can treat constipation and fever, get rid of 'garlic breathe' or be used as a laxative. It's also possible to grow beets in pots for decorative purposes indoors or outdoors.
Beet is also used to prepare various dishes and food recipes, atop food coloring. Beetroot juice, salad and pickles are some great ways to enjoy beet.
Beet is cultivated as a root or leaf vegetable and for sugar or fodder. Beet varieties for cultivation include: Blood Turnip, Will's Improved Blood Turnip, Edmand Blood Turnip, Dewing's Early Blood Turnip, Bastian's Blood Turnip, etc.
Beet contains geosmin, a compound responsible for its earthy taste or flavor. Generally, the plant takes 55 to 65 days to germinate. Beets grow in home gardens for their many benefits.
Beet has betalain pigment responsible for its purple or red coloring. Betalain pigment composition vary, hence the varied beet colors ranging from red to orange. Isobetanin, betanin, neobetanin and probetanin are types of betalains found in beet plants.
Betaxanthins are yellow to orange pigments such as vulgaxanthins and indicaxanthin while betacyanin produce violet to red pigments. Indicaxanthins are powerful antioxidants that offer protection against thalassemia. It also prevents Vitamin E (alpha tocopherol) breakdown.
Yellow, Red and White Pigments
Betacyanin can lead to beeturia, a condition in which some people are unable to breakdown beetroot, hence red urine. The pigments are stored in plant vacuole cells. The cells of beetroot plants are generally weak, explaining why they tend to leave colored stains behind.
Health Benefits of Beet
Beets have a high nutritional value, hence offer a range of health benefits. They are rich in minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and organic compounds such as glycine, vitamin C, copper, carotenoids, phosphorous, dietary fiber, zeaxanthin/lutein, betaine, iron, magnesium, etc.
Beets also contain anthocyanins, an essential flavonoid. Although they have high sugar content, beets have no cholesterol and are low in calories. Due to the content of beets, their roots and leaves have a great medicinal value.
With fresh beet root or leaves, you can treat various medical conditions such as kidney disorders, indigestion, anemia, dandruff, heart diseases, constipation, gallbladder disorders, cancer and piles, among others.
Grated Apple and Beetroot
Beets can also improve blood circulation, prevent cataracts and macular degeneration, treat respiratory problems and promote skin care. Rich in fiber, beets increase good HDL cholesterol while reducing triglycerides and bad LDL cholesterol. As a result, beets reduce the risk of developing heart problems.
In addition to improving heart health, beets prevent lung, skin and colon cancers; reduce birth defects due its vitamin B folate content; prevent respiratory problems such as asthma; stimulate liver functions for better health; and prevent cataracts.
Beetroot with Chrain Beetroot Juice
They also improve capillary structures, boosts energy, prevent stroke, lowers macular degeneration and act as aphrodisiacs for improved libido and better sexual health.
Want to grow beets at home? Check our gardening tools and supplies for items your need to start a beetroot garden.