In season late autumn: Beetroot
This root vegetable has an appealing deep-crimson colour, distinctive green leaves and bright stalks. Beetroot can be round or long. Look out for heirloom varieties — saffron yellow, red, orange and the striking red and white Chioggia.
Choose beetroot with firm smooth skin. Avoid roots that are scaly around the tops as they are tougher.
Keep beetroot in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator. Store roots unwrapped and store leaves in a plastic bag.
Beetroot are an excellent source of folate and contain fibre, potassium, B group vitamins and iron. The red pigments unique to beetroot are antioxidants called betalains (which can turn your urine pink if you eat quite a bit). Beetroot is also attracting attention for possible benefits for athletes.
Before cooking, scrub beetroot to remove soil, trim tops and rinse. Don’t peel before boiling whole to avoid the colour bleeding. Adding a little vinegar helps to retain colour. Once cooked, skins slip off easily. Roast wedges, microwave, add to soups, grate into salads and pickle. Keep young leaves to use raw in salads or cook like silver beet.
- Make hearty borscht: use roasted beets, onion, stock made with beef shin, a ham hock, bouquet garni, leeks and savoy cabbage and serve with a dollop of reduced-fat sour cream.
- For a vibrant salad, grate or shred beetroot finely, mix with lemon vinaigrette, toss lightly with toasted pumpkin seeds, mung bean sprouts, fresh mint and fresh coriander.
- Mix grated cooked beetroot into a chocolate cake or brownie mix.
- Make beetroot dip with grated beetroot, mint, crushed garlic, reduced-fat Greek yoghurt, salt and pepper.
- For an energising juice blend beetroot, orange, apple, carrots and fresh ginger.
Did you know? Adding slices of canned beetroot to burgers is unique to New Zealand and Australia.