What Do Beets Taste Like And Why?

What do beets taste like?

Some ingredients have a flavor that is hard to pin down. Often there are subtle flavors that we use and combine to construct flavor profiles. Even still, it is important that you have some understanding of each ingredient and the characteristics that they bring to the table.

One humble root vegetable that is important to get to know is the beet. This simple component is often misunderstood and written off as “tasting like dirt.” But does it? I would like to take you through what beets actually taste like and why they taste that way.

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What is the flavor of a beet?

You may think to yourself that you know what a beet tastes like and that taste is, simply put dirt. While it is true that beets often have a rich earthy flavor, this flavor is not exactly dirt. Beets are rich in a compound known as geosmin.

Geosmin is a compound that is produced by the microbes in the soil. This is why the smell and taste of beets are reminiscent of a field after a rainstorm or of freshly plowed dirt. As a human, you are likely sensitive to this compound and can detect subtle notes of it in foods. There are plenty of people who are averse to this compound, but there are many more who love it.

There are some other foods that you may have encountered that are also rich in this compound. Spinach, lettuce, and mushrooms are a few of the other foods you may find with a similar flavor component as they also have this compound in them.

This is where the controversy comes in. Many say this makes them taste like dirt while beet devotees would characterize the flavor as ‘earthy.’ In much of America, beets are not a favorite food item. In other countries, such as Australia, it is not uncommon to use a thick slice of beet on a hamburger.


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You are far more likely to find that people in the US have an aversion to these earthy vegetables. This may be because many Americans have experienced gritty canned beets rather than the fresh article.

Beets can actually be quite sweet. European scientists in the Napoleonic era turned to the beet as a potential source of sugar and found that the beet produces sucrose in the same fashion as sugarcane. Due to this, some beets were bred for their sugar making capabilities, and now a large portion of the world’s sugar comes from sugar beets.

This is an outstanding quality in beets, as it is a thing you can tease out in cooking. When you pair the beet with the proper components, you can bring forth that subtle sweetness. It is a sweetness I find very pleasing, and even those who are lifelong beet haters can find it pleasantly tasty.

What are some healthy dishes that will highlight the beet?

If you are already a beet lover, there is no need to try and win you over. You are already a part of Team Beet. However, there is a likely chance that you are averse to beets as so many other people are. But, there are some dishes that you should give a shot before you write off beets completely.

Traditionally, there are a few complements to the flavor of beets that are used quite widely. Goat cheese and dill are components you will find in many classic beet dishes, but these can be just as aversive to picky eaters as the beets themselves, so they may not work for you.

One recipe that can be used as an excellent introduction to the glory of beets is beet hummus. Mixed with the other ingredients, you will cut down on the potency of the beets significantly.


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One traditional dish that can help get you more adjusted to the taste of beets is the beet salad. When cooked properly in oil and paired with the right flavors you can tease out the sweetness of the beet. I recommend that you cut the beet in thin sections as to avoid the gritty chunks of beet that often put people off.

In my beet salad, I like to pair the beets with caramelized nuts, citrus fruits, and a vinaigrette. If you are averse to beets, this will help bring that sweetness forward and let the beets show you the best they have to offer.

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Find the true flavor of the beet

Beets tend to have an earthy taste. This taste is caused by microbes in the soil, providing the beets with a compound known as geosmin. Many people believe this is what gives the beet a dirt-like flavor. Coupled with the natural grittiness of beets, this has turned many people off.

However, some dishes can bring out a hidden sweetness in the beet. By using the right components, you can tease out this flavor and transform beets from an earthy food into a subtly sweet treat.

Helen Harris
 

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