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Part of the beta vulgaris family, encompassing sugar beet and chard.
If bought uncooked it is easiest to prepare by boiling it in plenty of lightly salted water for between one and two hours depending on size. More flavour is retained if it is baked slowly in the oven (for about 3 hours) covered loosely with tin foil. It is ready when the skin peels away easily from the root. It can then be used for soup (see Borscht), for various salads (it goes very well with orange, but needs careful arranging to restrain its red colour) and gratins.
Australians are the world's biggest consumers - beetroot relish being a necessary requirement at Australian barbecues.
While we think of beetroot as being red, golden beetroot is becoming increasingly popular and a striped variety called 'Chioggia' is grown in the Venice area of North East Italy.
Beetroot leaves can be eaten like spinach, or 'Tuscan-style' blanched in water, then finished with olive oil and a little onion and garlic.
Beetroot stains can be removed by rubbing the marks with a slice of pear before washing in the normal way. See 'Beet'