With its purple-red roots, stem and beautifully-shaped leaves, the beetroot does catch one’s attention and curiosity. Where could this unique and interesting-looking root come from? What is its history and how long has it been around?
It has been cultivated as far back as 4,000 years ago and it was believed that the ancient Babylonians are the first ones who have discovered how to use it.
The Romans and Greeks of ancient times have used its roots for medicinal purposes such as binding of wounds, digestion and blood problems. They also believed that it helps in the production of sex hormones in humans, making it a powerful aphrodisiac.
However, the roots of the beets were used solely for medicinal purposes. Only the leaves and stems were consumed as vegetables. It was only in the 1800s when French chefs discovered that the roots can also be used in dishes.
Beetroots are believed to have evolved from the wild sea beet commonly found in the coastlines of Western Asia, particularly in India and Europe.
The roots of ancient beetroots were shaped like carrots. It was only in the 17th century that bulb-like, purple-red roots appeared.
Currently, beetroots – leaves, roots and stalks — are quite common in Scandinavian and Russian cuisines. It is also used as an antidote for cyanide poisoning in Africa.