Beets are a plant best known for producing the root vegetable that share the same name. There are a number of different varieties of beets, including the popular vegetable known as beetroot and the sugar beet, which is used to produce table sugar. The roots of these plants are edible and are usually red-purple in color, although other colors are also available. The beets are usually round in shape and are commonly eaten pickled, steamed, roasted or raw. The above ground portion of the plant, known as beet tops or beet greens are also edible and are similar to spinach. Let’s find out where beets originated and how the spread to the rest of the world.
Where do beets come from?
The wild ancestor to the modern varieties of beets is known as the sea beet. This plant originated along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and it is in this region that the beet was first cultivated for food. Today, the sea beet can be found growing wild along the coast of Europe, northern Africa, southern Asia and in parts of Great Britain. The sea beet is sometimes still eaten today, although the cultivated varieties are more popular.
The spread of the beet
After being domesticated the beets spread from the Mediterranean region to Babylonia (Middle East) in the 8th century B.C. and to China by 850 A.D. They were later spread into the Americas by European explorers. Today, beets are grown on every continent on Earth, apart from Antarctica.
Did you know?
Some people are unable to break down the red color compound, called betanin, in beetroot. If these people consume beetroot it can cause the urine and feces (poop) to temporarily turn red! This can be concerning, but it is a completely harmless condition.