Beets are one of the most unique vegetables in the garden. From its dark, red skin to the jewel-like color of its flesh, there is something so different about beets. Aside from their unique appearance, beets are also rich in essential vitamins and minerals. What’s truly fascinating about this veggie is the amount of mythology and folklore that surrounds it. More than most fruit and vegetables, beets have had a place in ancient religions and cultures all across the world.
The ancestor of modern beets, the sea beet, is believed to have originated on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Red beets were cultivated during the Third Dynasty in Egypt and held a position of significance in their culture, while charred beetroot remains have been found in burial sites in the Netherlands from the Neolithic Era. The ancient Greeks placed a special emphasis on the beet and imbued it with romantic connotations that persist to this day. Their goddess of love, Aphrodite, attributed her romantic abilities from her love of eating beets. Even their Oracle held beets in special esteem claiming they had mystical properties to them. The Romans continued the tradition and even decorated the walls of some brothels with images of beets. Some Wiccan religions even have a ceremony where a couple eats from the same beet in an attempt to bless their romance.
While some cultures adored the beet for its believed aphrodisiac properties, other cultures used the beets in concoctions for medicinal properties. During the 16th century, drinks made out beet juice and other ingredients were used to cleanse the body and were effective at cleansing the liver and spleens for people drinking the potions. Even in the modern era of medicine, beets are extremely effective at treating anemia and high blood pressure.
The most likely reason why beets keep popping up in mythologies around the world is pretty simple: beets are easy to grow and provide a tremendous amount of benefits. Our ancient ancestors knew a good thing when they saw it and made sure to include it in their history for the benefit of their ancestors. When cooking with the beets, there is something so visually interesting in preparing them. They look more like a precious stone with their skin stripped off than the flesh of a vegetable, and the wonderful medicinal properties and delicious flavor of beets truly make it something special.