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Beetroot is the taproot portion of the beet plant. A beet is also known as red beet, table beet, garden beet, or simply beet. There are numerous different types of beetroot. Many of which are distinguished by their color; yellow, white, pink or dark purple.
Beetroots are delicious when eaten raw,. But they are more frequently cooked or pickled. Their leaves can also be cooked and enjoyed like spinach.
This plant comes from the same family as sugar beets. But they are genetically and nutritionally different. Sugar beets are white in color and commonly used for extracting sugar and sweetening manufactured foods. Sugar cannot be obtained from beets, which are mostly red or gold in color.
The beetroot plant, Beta vulgaris, has deep tap roots. It can grow in a variety of soil conditions. Other members of the genus include chard, sugar beet, spinach, and samphire. The red variety is dominant. But golden and white beetroot is also grown on a smaller scale.
Beetroots evolved from wild sea beet which is a native of coastlines from India to Britain. Two thousand years ago even before they were modified by cultivation techniques, beetroots had a carrot-shaped root and only the leaves were eaten. Its small root was also used for medicinal purposes by ancient Greeks and Romans.
The familiar rounded root variety was developed around the sixteenth century. It gained widespread popularity in Europe a couple of hundred years later.
Today, beetroot is common throughout much of Europe. It is used extensively in Scandinavian, Eastern European and Russian cuisine.
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