Darcy Lambton

23 May 2024

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Beetroot powers super new smoked salmon from L&J

With different superfoods drifting in and out of favour, beetroot can sometimes get neglected. However, this earthy, mildly unglamorous root vegetable has much more to say for itself than you might expect. And we’re giving it the perfect mouthpiece with the launch of Lambton & Jackson’s supremely delicious Beetroot Cure Smoked Salmon.

When we first started using beetroot as part of a curing process, we knew that it was sumptuous in colour and deep in flavour. But did we know all of the amazing things we’ve since discovered? Read on to be surprised…

From ancient origins to elite athletic performance, beetroot means many things to many people. If you thought it was just a veg that your granny pickled, think again! So what is it that makes beetroot so nutritionally rich, full of colour and flavour, and quite simply so very versatile? Exploring the roots (…ahem..) of this vegetable, we’ll reveal beetroot’s secrets and give our tips on how to cook with it in the most inventive of ways.

Origins of Beetroot 

Like most superfoods, the beneficial properties of beetroot exist through its complex and ancient origin. It evolved from sea beet, which would grow along coastlines around Britain, through Europe to the Middle East. Botanically termed Beta vulgaris, the name derives from the Celtic for ‘red’: ‘beta’. However, the rounded root as we know it only evolved through the 16th Century, with earlier beetroot being more thin and carrot-like.

Ancient Greeks and Romans would eat the leaves (more on this later), but mainly use various parts of the plant medicinally, and considered it an aphrodisiac. Beetroot is even referenced in a text from 800 BCE which describes it growing in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. So, beetroot had some kind of ‘superfood’ reputation even back then, albeit rather more mystically than we look at it today!

Beetroot and Nutrition

Nowadays, we understand a lot more about the nutritional composition of foods, which is what makes beetroot such a superfood in the modern world. Beetroot has an impressive nutritional profile; rich in essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. There are vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6 and B9 as well as good old vitamin C. The distinctive colour is because of nitrogen containing pigments called betalains, which is also what gives beetroot its anti-inflammatory properties. So it’s often recommended for people managing ongoing health conditions. Despite consisting of 87% water, they’re a great source of fibre and carbohydrate which makes this a popular food for athletes.

Elite Beets

Being a superfood is one thing, but the nutritional qualities of beetroot are so powerful that in recent years it’s been embraced by the sport and fitness industry. For runners especially, the nitrate levels found in beetroot provide performance enhancing benefits. By consuming higher levels of nitrates, nitric oxide in athletes’ blood is increased. This improves reactions, speeds up the conversion of glucose to energy, and enhances the oxygen supply to the muscles by widening the arteries and veins. There are plenty of beetroot based supplements available, and increasing beetroot in an active diet is growing in popularity.

Seasonal Sustainability

In the UK, beetroot’s peak season spans from late spring to early autumn, during which time they are at their most tender and flavourful. This lengthy period makes it ideal for sustainable living and supporting local agriculture. However, beetroot’s hardy nature means that it can also store really well in the fridge, and by pickling it can be kept for an especially long time.

Eating Options

So if beetroot is such a highly nutritious, hardy and accessible vegetable, then why aren’t we making better use of it? There’s so much more to beetroot than boiling or pickling for a salad. Once you’re aware of all the ways you can use beetroot, you’ll never overlook it again!

Beetroot Cake

Adding pureed, or finely grated, beetroot to sponge mix not only makes a cake more moist, but also contributes added natural sweetness. Not to mention the vibrant colour, elevating a vanilla sponge to become a red velvet cake without the need for artificial colours. Include it in a chocolate cake recipe to create a deep, earthy flavour and sumptuous colour.

Beetroot Humous

Roast beetroot with whole garlic cloves and blend with chickpeas, olive oil, tahini and salt to make a humous which is visually striking. This is a great part of any picnic or buffet spread, with a mix of sweet and earthy flavours.

Beetroot Leaf Pesto

You can base a pesto with any leaves, and beetroot is no different. Combine the leaves of raw beetroot with spinach, basil, garlic, parmesan and your choice of nuts in a food processor. Although pine nuts are common, hazelnuts, cashews, or almonds work wonderfully. Or try a mix! Add olive oil by eye to get the right texture and salt to taste.

Beetroot Juice

If you want to try to make your own beetroot juice at home, mix raw beetroot with apple, carrot and ginger in your juicer for a super tasty flavour combination. This juice freezes well, so you can freeze it into ice cubes to add to cocktails or soda water.

Beetroot Infusion

While beetroot is famously and commonly pickled in its own right, it can play a part in infusing flavours into other foods. From oils and marinades to spirits and curing, by grating raw beetroot you have a veritably versatile base for adding colour and flavour to other foods.

Beetroot Cure Smoked Salmon

One such use for beetroot as an infusion ingredient is in beetroot cured salmon. This is a marriage of two superfoods, with the high omega-3 properties of salmon combining with nutrient rich beetroot to make a real power couple. Beetroot curing is visibly striking with its deep red hue, not to mention the profound flavour and dash of sweetness. Here at Lambton & Jackson we’ve taken things a step further through our smoking process. This elevates the flavour even further and makes our Beetroot Cure smoked salmon a stellar centrepiece boasting proper wow factor. Whether using as an extravagant starter or creative canape, this combination turns heads.

Although it may be a hardy root vegetable, beetroot packs surprises. Many people have yet to discover the full nutritional and taste benefits of beetroot, but once you have it’s something that you won’t easily forget. With its wealth of flavour combinations to try from goats cheese or salmon to much more besides, there’s no denying this resplendent ingredient has a fascinating story to tell.