Musings on Everything from the Soil, the Soul, and how to cook Super Healthy Beets


Foods with Purpose

Musings on Everything from the Soil, the Soul, and how to cook super healthy Beets

Like Petrichor, the unique smell of the Earth after it rains, Geosmin, found in the soil, is a natural odor sensitive to your nose. Geosmin helps give beets their distinctive earthy essence.

By Mark Zuleger-Thyss 


Soil represents whatever gives people strength and richness in life – especially the good things that are well deserved. The soul is your soil, and if you generate the right inner conditions, your seeds will have the proper nutrients to thrive.




Satish Kumar, the Indian-British environmentalist, put forth the idea of a "new trinity," which he believes captures the essence of his Eco philosophy – it is characterized by people who care about life - and for all life.


"We are all members of a one-earth society and caring for the earth and soul is interrelated."
- Satish Kumar


This concept requires that reverence for nature be at the heart of every political and social debate.

In his book, Soil, Soul & Society, Satish presents this new trinity for the age of sustainability. One that shares the knowledge that we are very much part of nature; that what we do to nature, we, in fact, do to ourselves; and that the Earth is soulful.

We are not separate. We are not the rulers of the planet. We need to throw out the idea that we can do whatever we want. Instead, we must take care of the other species because we are all related - members of a one-Earth community – interdependent.

And at the top of Kumar's new trinity is the word soil, representing the entire natural world. Without soil, there is no food, and there is no life without food.



Soil represents life on Earth, and in fact, it is the source of life – all life.


This view is holistic, more inclusive, and embraces the entire planet and not just the human species.


Petrichor & Geosmin | the Scent of Clean Air and Wet Earth

One thing we all share - and love about the Earth - is Petrichor. It is a lovely term that refers to the odor released into the air when rain falls on dry soil or rock.

Before rain ever touches the Earth, this luscious scent permeates the air. Petrichor is fresh and friendly, and we all recognize it immediately.



Petrichor is produced when rain interacts with Geosmin contained in the soil. That luscious smell after it rains comes from an organic compound called Geosmin, produced by microbes.

Scientists believe we came to appreciate this 'rain scent' because our ancestors may have relied upon sensing rainy weather for their survival.

Bacteria, plants, and even lightning all play a role in the pleasant smell we experience after a thunderstorm. It produces feelings of gratitude and happiness. Rain is appealing and a welcome relief after long periods of dry weather. In this way, the Earth is literally speaking, asking us to become more aware of her subtle and nurturing presence.




Dirt does not mean dirty

Beta Vulgaris (known as table beets in North America) has a robust taste and smell. Some people complain they have a "dirt-like" smack, and the typical response is to dodge them if seen on the dinner table. People can be apprehensive because beets look and smell unfamiliar. But others find this earthy taste most tempting and, above all, satisfying. Geosmin is what bestows that down-to-earth smell of a freshly plowed field.

Beets are indeed root crops that generally grow in the soil. It is a myth that dirt and particles of Earth are fused in the beets even after being washed.

People are approvingly sensitive to Geosmin, which helps us to enjoy the earthy characteristics of a handful of vegetables. Geosmin is safe, and you will find it in spinach, lettuce, and mushrooms, too.

Beets, or beetroots, are worth a second look. Delicious and jam-packed with powerful nutrients, beets boast fiber, folate, potassium, magnesium, and vitamin C.

The health benefits of beets range from lower blood pressure to improved athletic performance. In addition, maintaining healthy blood pressure can reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.



A 2018 study found that drinking a concentrated beetroot juice was more effective at lowering blood pressure than non-concentrated beetroot juice, pancakes, or beetroot powder supplements.


The Origins of Beta Vulgaris

Beets are not your typical vegetable, and their taste is truly distinctive. Beets epitomize the soil, the Earth, and the fact that she, Gaia, is the source of life and the foods we eat.

Red beet is a swollen root that is dark red and purple in color. Red beet gets its distinctive color from nitrogen-containing water-soluble pigments called betalains.

Beets are a winter vegetable having a natural sweetness that makes them a versatile ingredient. They are consumed either raw in salads or can be used in various dishes.



Beets have a role in History | although an underappreciated one

The thick-rooted beetroot was well known in ancient times. Around the 13th century, beetroot spread from Germany and became an essential food for the rural population in large parts of Europe. Its earliest form more closely resembled a parsnip rather than the bulbous shape we're now familiar with, which began appearing near the end of the 1500s. Beets were valued as one of the only vegetables that grew well throughout winter.

The large beet leaves and stalks were consumed like chard. Despite only growing well during spring and fall, beets were so well regarded in Ancient Rome and Greece that methods were developed for producing them during the hot summer months.


Food as Medicine

Beetroot has been known to people since Babylon and ancient Greece and was famous for its valuable properties, and to this day, it occupies a worthy place in various cuisines of the world.

Sometimes called table beet, garden beet, red or golden beet, beetroot is the taproot part of the beet plant and is used for nourishment. Humans originally ate beet greens but not the fibrous roots, which were sometimes used in medicine and food coloring.



Beets contain fructose, pigments, amino acids, vitamins, rare trace elements such as lithium, bromine, magnesium, strontium, rubidium, and mineral salts. Prepared as a vegetable, beets are appetizing when used raw and finely chopped and added to salads.

When fresh local vegetables are scarce in winter, beets shine. Rich in vitamin B, iron, folic acid, and potassium, this sweet and sour tuber brings variety and color to the winter kitchen.

The root of the beet plant is chiefly used in natural and herbal medicines. Beets can help lower levels of triglycerides in the blood, lower blood pressure, and improve athletic performance.


"It is less well known that its [beetroot's] nitrate content also has a wide variety of positive effects on the human body. It has been shown to lower blood pressure and dilate the blood vessels."
Nutritionist Oliver Neubauer, Active Aging research platform at the University of Vienna




Eating Beets lowers Blood Pressure

Beets are high in nitrate, which helps lower blood pressure. Your body utilizes nitrate by turning it into a gas called nitric oxide. This gas relaxes the muscles of your blood vessels, which ensures arteries remain adequately dilated. Nitric oxide gas also prevents the blood from thickening and clotting. This promotes healthy blood flow and lowers your blood pressure. 


In studies where healthy subjects drank nitrate-rich beetroot juice twice each day, 10 strains of beneficial bacteria associated with good vascular and cognitive health increased.
Meanwhile, lower levels of 14 other strains related to inflammation and infection were found. This suggests that nitrate-rich beetroot juice may benefit the heart and brain.



Help for the Liver and More

Beets are easily digested and have tremendous healing powers. Beetroot has a preventive effect against influenza diseases. In addition, there are applications in naturopathy in treating anemia, calcium deficiency, and mineral salt deficiencies.

The pigment betanin, which gives beetroot its red color, and choline, an ammonium compound found in large quantities in beetroot, help the liver break down metabolic end products.


Beets are jam-packed with Antioxidants

Beetroot is a rich source of antioxidant compounds and contains several highly bioactive phenolics, such as rutin, epicatechin, and caffeic acid, which are also outstanding.

Beets are widely used in folk medicine to treat certain diseases due to their plentiful vitamins and trace elements. Beets help strengthen bones and blood vessels. The substances in them accelerate the processes of hematopoiesis and the production of hemoglobin.

Beetroot is good for obesity and can help rid excess fluid and cleanse the kidneys, blood, and liver.



Cardiovascular Protection

Beetroot also contains folic acid, iron, and vitamins from the B group. This mix is vital for blood formation and protects the vessels from deposits and thus from arteriosclerosis or vascular deposits. Left unchecked, these deposits can lead to vascular occlusion and, in the worst case, to strokes and heart attacks. Iron also supports the absorption of oxygen by the blood.

Boiled beet salad helps relieve constipation by cleansing the intestines. In addition, eating this vegetable helps maintain youthful skin.


Beware of Kidney Stones!

Your body absorbs oxalic acid from only a handful of foods, and they vary significantly from source to source. These foods are spinach, rhubarb, beets and beet greens, and chocolate.

Beetroot contains a considerable amount of oxalic acid. When high calcium and oxalic acid concentrations are present in your urine, calcium oxalate kidney stones can form.


Find your next Doctor on Garden of Healing


This article does not replace a diagnosis by a doctor. Although applications with medicinal herbs often have positive effects on symptoms, consult your doctor before using them.




Recipe Ideas

Beet recipe ideas include beetroot risottos, beetroot dumplings, beetroot relish, beetroot in a nut crust, beetroot soup with smoked fish, or a delicate pink beetroot horseradish foam. While these recipes might be challenging for the novice cook, try preparing beets and using butter and salt to bring out their natural sweetness.



For truly appetizing yet tame recipes made with scrumptious beets consider these dazzling options:


  • Rhubarb & Beets
  • Quick Pickled Beets
  • Roasted Beets with Tarragon
  • Boiled Beets with Sautéed Beet Greens
  • Roasted Beets with Orange & Ginger
  • Grilled Beets with Dilled Cucumbers


Preparing Beets | Boiling or Roasting

Use either one of these two methods to prepare beets for recipes that call for them to be roasted or boiled. 

Like most people, you either do not add beets as an ingredient to recipes, or you merely avoid eating them altogether. However, there are more ways to cook beets than you might previously have imagined, and most are simple.

The best-known method is boiling them – a simple, fast, and traditional way to make a healthy side dish at a moment's notice. Boiled beets have a juicier texture, and roasted beets (or baked) have a drier texture but more concentrated flavors.


To get acquainted with beets, read on, and begin chopping.


Boiling Beets | On the Stovetop

Don't peel your beets before boiling. The skins are easily removed after. Just clean, dry, and cut them.

Place beets in a large saucepan and add water to cover, add a little lemon juice or vinegar. 

The lemon juice (or vinegar) will keep the beets from bleeding. They help the red pigments in beets stay bright red and give them a deep red-purple hue that makes you want to sink your teeth in as soon as they are cooked.

Bring to a boil, then simmer until tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Place pot under running cold water and rinse until beets can be handled. The skins can now be easily peeled off the tubers.

Beets are naturally sweet. They have a soft texture that's easy for children to eat when cooked. They taste great with a bit of butter and salt - a perfect starting point to get your kids eating more of this colorful vegetable.



Roasting Beets | In the Oven or Grilled

Earthy beets turn sweet and tender when they're roasted. Preheating your baking sheet speeds up the roasting time and gives the outside of the beets a quick and flavorful sear. Honey and lemon juice add sweet and tangy notes.

Salt-roasted beets are the ultimate way to cook beets in the oven. This technique will win the taste and texture test every time.

Root vegetables are full of water which has no flavor. The naturally sweet and earthy flavors of the beets are therefore diluted. The perfect solution is removing the excess water and salt-roasting them. This method concentrates the flavors and improves the texture of the beets. They will be more dense, smooth, and almost toffee-like.


Beets & The Hanging Gardens of Babylon

An ancient Assyrian text from 800 B.C. describes beets growing in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The tiered gardens contained many trees, shrubs, and vines – and beetroot, too.

While the hanging gardens were probably mythical, and the descriptions found in ancient Greek and Roman writings represented a romantic ideal of eastern gardens, it is clear beets were valued by the people of those times.



Beets have long been considered an aphrodisiac in many cultures. Ancient Romans believed that beets and their juice promoted amorous feelings, and frescoes of beets decorated the walls of edifices in Pompeii. Aphrodite, the goddess of love, ate beets to enhance her appeal in Greek mythology.

The basis for this quaint folklore comes from what is contained in beets. They are a natural source of tryptophan and betaine, both substances that promote a feeling of well-being. They also have high amounts of boron, a trace mineral that increases sex hormones in the human body.



Vibrant red and golden beetroot were cultivated everywhere from northern Europe to the ancient Mediterranean. While beets are best known for their bright coloring and earthy flavors, they pack more of a nutritional punch than you might realize.

Beets burst with antioxidants, fiber, and other vitamins, making them a great vegetable to serve on salads or as a side dish. Beets and beetroot juice are ideal for hard-training athletes and have enormous potential for everyday folks as well.

Beets are high in fiber which can help control blood sugar levels, maintain a healthy weight, lower cholesterol, and stay regular. 


Beets are one of those vegetables you can use from bottom to top. Although beetroot is used chiefly in cooking, the greens are terrific for salads and stir fry. Roasted beets are delightful comfort food – roasting allows their natural sugars to develop and caramelize. Other ways to incorporate beets into your diet include soups, hummus, burgers, or cakes.

When selecting beets, look for those grown organically and with lovely sturdy greens.





© 2022, Mark Zuleger-Thyss, Garden of Healing, LLC. All rights reserved.

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