With a vibrant, deep ruby-red colour and a fresh flavour and texture, raw beetroot is completely different from beetroot pickled in malt vinegar. It makes a spectacular and nutritious salad.
For a beetroot, carrot and orange salad, first soak 55 g (2 oz) raisins in 3 tbsp orange juice for at least 1 hour. Cut 225 g (8 oz) peeled raw beetroot and 225 g (8 oz) carrots into fine matchstick strips. Gently heat 2 tbsp sunflower oil with 1 tsp caraway seeds in a small pan for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and whisk in 2 tsp lime juice. Pour over the raw vegetables, toss together and leave to cool. Meanwhile, peel and slice 4 oranges, and arrange on a serving platter with 75 g (2½ oz) watercress sprigs. Spoon the beetroot and carrots into the middle and scatter over the soaked raisins and 15 g (½ oz) toasted sunflower seeds. * For a beetroot slaw, grate 340 g (12 oz) peeled raw beetroot and mix with 225 g (8 oz) finely shredded red cabbage and 1 thinly sliced red onion. For the dressing, mix ¼ tsp mustard powder with 1 tbsp clear honey, then whisk in 1 tbsp orange juice, 1 tsp red wine vinegar, ¼ tsp paprika and seasoning to taste. Pour over the vegetables, toss well and leave to marinate for 30 minutes.
In Chinese medicine, beetroot is said to strengthen the heart, sedate the spirit, purify the blood and treat a sluggish liver. Eaten raw or cooked, beetroot is a good source of folate and provides some iron; when pickled, most of the folate is destroyed. For some people, eating beetroot can cause their urine to turn pink. This is no cause for alarm, it simply indicates a genetically inherited inability to metabolise betacyanin, the red pigment that gives beetroot its characteristic colour. This harmless compound simply passes through the digestive system unchanged.
B1, B6, C, E, folate, niacin * A, calcium