Friday, October 7, 2016

Multi-tasking Beetroot or why Aussies like Beetroot.

"It's not a real Aussie hamburger unless there's sliced beetroot on it." 
" Red Velvet Cake? The CWA (Country Women's Association) Beetroot Cake is even better!" 
" Australian gourmet dip = beetroot dip "
In our family, we love fresh beetroot roasted, in salads, in dips but especially cooked and  home-preserved in  sugar and vinegar. My husband 's secret ingredient is raw sugar only - no processed white or brown! My daughter-in-law even asks for jars of this beetroot as a Christmas gift! 

I wonder why and  how the  beetroot became such a favourite with Australians, especially when the largest producers are USA, Russia, France, Poland and Germany and traditionally, beetroot appears in the classic dishes of Central and Eastern Europe. Perhaps it's because we know that beetroot is so good for us . Beetroot has been called " a health food titan". It is full of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants, as well as having the bonus of being low in fat and high in fibre. Medicinally, beetroot helps the detoxification processes in the liver. Beetroot juice has had such a great rap since Gold Medallist Paralympian David Weir attributed his success to it and some trials showed that it may decrease blood pressure. There are many claims to the benefits of beetroot including :  the suppression of  some forms of cancer by its plant pigment; increase in amino acids improving the health of the intestinal tract ; and increase in  the number of white blood cells which in turn helps to detect abnormal cells .(from
Aah - perhaps that is why we put beetroot in hamburgers, creamy dips, chocolate cakes ? To counter all the other " unhealthy" components of such food items, and even the alcohol which may be also be consumed with these choices! 
Personally, I like beetroot because it is a "multi-tasker". I love eating beetroot cooked and raw and  I have often used "beetroot' as a  source of inspiration for art work. 
This week, after cooking some beetroot , I saved the water and did a little experiment with it as a dye. I thought as the colour of the water was such a rich red, the resulting colour on fabric would be great?  I added various mordants into separate jars - vinegar, alum, copper sulphate and iron sulphate. I mixed the mordants in with the beetroot water and put some small pieces of cotton and silk fabric into the dye mixture in glass bottles and put them outside for a few days. 
I then read one of my eco dye books which explained that beetroot is not a dye source, but more of a stain. Nevertheless, I persisted and allowed the fabric in the dye mixture to "stew" in the sun. The results were less than brilliant.  I think  they are pleasingly rustic and "natural" even if somewhat underwhelming. 
While the photo does not show the colours well, it is obvious that the silk took the colour better and consider that all this happened without boiling or steaming. The copper sulphate mordant did give a slight greenish tinge and the iron resulted in a greyish-black undertone to the basic "antique" hue. The samples with alum were the darkest and brightest and some pink remained in the lot to which vinegar was added later. I still like these  rather muted colours and will even use the samples in other art work. And I still have a full pot of beetroot water - which mordant will I use? I might think about it while I eat a cheese and beetroot sandwich! 

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