A guide to French beetroot (or beets), how best to eat them - raw or cooked - plus some nutrition facts. Includes easy, healthy beetroot recipes and serving ideas using them.
French Beetroot Season
Autumn - Winter; October - March.
France is the second biggest producer of beetroot in Europe behind Italy. According to the French Ministry of Agriculture, nearly 180,000 tons were harvested in France with the most popular consumption being vacuum-packed cooked beetroot for the quality French Label Rouge.
What is Beetroot? Its Names and Types
Beetroot (Beta Vulgaris), known as beet in America, is cousin to both spinach and Swiss chard. As a result, it's also commonly known as spinach beet, chard and European sugar beet.
It's most commonly seen as round, deep red beetroot but many varieties exist - such as yellow, white and candy cane (chiogga white/red striped).
Is Beetroot High in Sugar?
Although relatively high in sugar compared with other vegetables, it contains only about 9g per medium sized beetroot of 150g, according to the USDA.
Consequently, it's used for the sugar industry and distilleries. 85% of sugar in France comes from beetroot (according to Tout Compte Fait magazine). It takes 7kg of beetroot to make 1 kilo of sugar. However, this cheap method of making sugar for the big industries strips this vegetable from all its healthy properties - especially fibre.
Health Benefits of Beetroot
According to Aprifel for the French Ministry of Agriculture, beetroot is high in fibre, potassium, calcium, magnesium and antioxidants. It's so healthy, it's highly recommended to add to salads and vegetable side dishes during the winter months. However, like any food, it's best to vary your diet and eat with moderation, as it is quite high in sugar. According to Dr Eric Berg, as far as its nutrition goes, eating a moderate amount of beetroot is beneficial for a healthy liver.
Its deep crimson colour is used as a natural food colouring (Betanin).
How to Store
Storage: whether if bought raw or cooked, keep covered in a sachet or airtight container for up to 5 days in the fridge.
Beetroot Recipes (Mainly French)
Popular for its particularly sweet character, beetroot is ideal with both sweet and savoury dishes. Here are some beetroot recipes with some suggestions that are ideal as a garnish.
Beetroot and Horseradish Risotto - I had some fun developing this recipe, simply to photograph my savoury beetroot and horseradish macarons in my first book!
So much fun, that I served this at a dinner party as a starter/appetizer (shaped by a inox ring for plating) and guests thought I'd served a raw beef steak tartare! Totally vegetarian, this creamy risotto is delicious with some fiery horseradish, wasabi or Dijon mustard.
Beetroot is wonderful in winter salads. For a healthy boost in winter, enjoy roasted beets in this Roast Beetroot Salad with apple and smoked mackerel. With added orange zest and a wee spice kick, this is made in just 30 minutes.
Add raw, thin slices to a French blue cheese Roquefort, apple, pear and walnut salad.
Serve thin matchsticks of raw chiogga beetroot to garnish this Terre et Mer French Charcuterie plate. A mini beetroot and horseradish macaron is optional (recipe in my book, Mad About Macarons!)
Beetroot chocolate cake. It sounds a strange combination but, believe me, it's divine. As beetroot adds moisture and is naturally sweet, this cake is reduced in sugar and extra moist.
The above cake inspired my chocolate and beetroot macarons in my recipe book, Mad About Macarons!