Christmas food traditions vary across the world. It is traditional to eat Beetroot soup in Poland on Christmas Eve. The dish is a favourite in many East European countries. It is firmly believed to be of Ukrainian origin and is generally known as borscht. The soup is known as barszcz in Poland. It is served with uszka. These are small, ear-shaped dumplings filled with wild mushrooms. Sour cream may also be added.
Beetroot is a healthy choice of vegetable. It is high in fibre and a good source of folate (vitamin B9), manganese, potassium, iron and vitamin C. Beets can vary in colour (yellow, white, pink or dark purple), but red is the traditional colour of borscht or barszcz.
All cultivated Beets are classified as Beta vulgaris in the Amaranthaceae or Amaranth/Spinach family. Our red Beetroot appears in the Conditiva Group. The red colour is due to betalains (a combination of purple pigment betacyanin and the yellow pigment betaxanthin). Beetroot is often used a stable, natural food colorant.
Beetroot in Britain
The red Beet was first introduced to Britain in the 17th century. Gerard described it enthusiastically in 1633 as providing a most excellent and delicate salad. Overall, it seems that the Brits were somewhat slow to appreciate Beetroot. Eventually, the Victorians started cutting it into shapes in salads. They also washed their hair in beetroot juice. Cultivation led to new varieties and greater interest.
Wichary, Marcin (2015): Polish Christmas Hot Beet Soup with Mushroom Dumplings. Medium.com. 13 December 2015
References and Further Reading
- Bjarnadottir, Adda (2019): Beetroot 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits. Healthline. 8 March 2019.
- Davidson, Alan (2006): The Oxford Companion to Food. Second Edition. Edited by Tom Jaine. Oxford University Press.
- Stocks, Christopher (2008): Forgotten Fruits. A guide to Britain’s traditional fruit and vegetables. Random House. London.
- van Wyck, Ben-Erik (2005): Food Plants of the World. An illustrated guide. Timber Press
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