Beets are delicious and packed with nutrients, making them a favorite in salads. If prepared properly, they should have a sweet taste. But what should you do if your beets taste like dirt, and is that normal?
Your beets taste like dirt because of an organic compound called geosmin. It is completely normal for beets to take in geosmin and taste like dirt. However, you can remove the dirt taste from beet dishes by preparing them properly.
This article will look at what causes the earthy taste in beets. It’ll also look at whether this taste is present in all varieties of beets and what you can do to lessen the dirt taste in your beet dishes.
What Causes Beets To Taste Like Dirt?
If you’ve ever tasted raw beets before, you’ll notice that they have a distinct dirt-like flavor. While you may suspect that the taste is caused by not washing the dirt off properly, the dirt-like taste will remain even if you peel off the beet’s skin. So, what causes the dirt-like taste if it’s not actual dirt?
The raw dirt taste in beets is caused by geosmin. This organic compound is formed by bacteria in the soil and makes its way into the plant along with other nutrients. Some scientists claim that beets can produce geosmin in their cells, which gives them an inherent earth-like flavor.
Beets don’t really have significant amounts of geosmin, even though you may taste the effects of this compound. The human nose is very sensitive to geosmin, and you’ll likely smell it while eating raw beets. This enhances the dirt taste since your brain believes the food contains dirt. If you’ve ever smelt the fresh earth after a rain shower, the smell is similar to that produced by beets.
So, while beets do taste like dirt, it’s not because they contain sand or actual dirt, but rather because of a natural compound produced by either the beets or organisms in the soil. Since geosmin is harmless, there’s no need to worry about any side effects when eating beets.
How Do You Make Beets Taste Better?
While raw beets may taste like dirt, there are many ways to lessen that somewhat unpleasant taste. Beets are quite sweet and are part of many popular dishes. They’re also packed with nutrition and have a range of health benefits. So, how do you remove the dirt taste from beets?
You can make beets taste better by pairing them with other foods, boiling them, adding vinegar or lemon, or adding spices to them. You can even get rid of the dirt taste by roasting the beets or making beet juice.
Here are a few ways to make beets taste better:
1. Pair Them With Other Foods
If you’re adding raw beets to a salad, add ingredients that’ll take away the dirt flavor. For example, lettuce, apples, and nuts are excellent choices, but you can also add cheese for a unique taste. If you’re adding beets to other dishes, you can disguise the taste with sauces and dressings.
A marinade is a great topping for dishes containing beets, and you can also serve it in Borscht. Borscht contains carrots and onions, which do a great job disguising the raw beets’ dirt-like taste.
2. Boil the Beets
Boiling beets can also get rid of the dirt taste. You should always wash the beets thoroughly before boiling them and place them in cold water afterward. In addition, if you want to remove most of the dirt flavor, boil the beets after peeling off the skins.
Cut them in half before boiling for faster results. Boiled beets are used in many popular dishes and absorb flavors quite well.
3. Marinate the Beets in Vinegar or Lemon
Marinating the beets in lemon juice or vinegar is a great way to get rid of the dirt taste. Leave them in the vinegar for an hour or two to alter the taste. While this will remove the sweet taste, it’s also a great way to prepare beets for pickles and other sour recipes.
You can also add vinegar to your beet dishes to give them a sharp taste. Add lemon juice instead of vinegar for a more balanced taste if you’re adding beets to a salad.
4. Add Spices to Beets
While most people think of beets as sweet, they absorb different flavors quite well. Add spices to both raw and cooked beet dishes to disguise the dirt flavor. You can also add pepper, red chili, coriander, and cumin to beet dishes to enhance their taste.
Garlic and cumin work best in cooked beet dishes, and there’s nothing better than sprinkling some fresh black pepper on your beet salads.
5. Roast the Beets
Roasting the beets is the best way to get rid of the dirt taste while preserving the sweetness. Roast beets are similar to sweet potatoes and can be eaten as a side dish or healthy snack. If you roast beets in a little coconut or olive oil, you’ll have sweet-tasting beets without a dirt-like aftertaste.
6. Make Beet Juice
Try making beet juice or smoothies if you prefer to have raw beets. To make beet juice, you’ll need a sweet fruit to counter the dirt taste in the beets. Apples are usually best since they compliment the natural sweetness of the beets.
Here’s how to make beet juice:
- Wash the beets thoroughly and peel them off.
- Add fresh beets and apples into the blender and blend thoroughly.
- Squeeze some fresh lemon juice, mix and enjoy!
Beets and oranges also go well together, and the orange juice will balance the earthy taste of the beets.
Why Do Your Beets Taste Bitter?
While beets may taste like earth, it’s not normal for them to taste bitter. Beets may have a slightly bitter taste, but the dominant taste is the sweetness and earth taste. However, if your beets taste bitter, it doesn’t mean anything is wrong with them.
Beets usually taste bitter as the result of overcooking them when roasting. If you are preparing beets in the oven and roast them too much, they will lose their sweetness and develop a strong, bitter taste. They are still safe to eat, as long as you have not burnt them.
Sometimes, beets will start to taste bitter when they go bad. However, this usually occurs when the beets become rotten on the inside. Luckily, it’s easy to spot signs of rotting, as they come in the form of softness and spots on the skin.
Do Other Vegetables Taste Like Dirt?
Beets are not the only vegetables that taste like dirt because of geosmin. Other vegetables such as mushrooms and potatoes may also taste like dirt at times, especially if eaten raw. The earth-like taste often depends on how much geosmin the plant has and whether it is raw or cooked.
Some types of fish may also absorb geosmin, which makes them smell like dirt. This is more prominent in freshwater fish since the algae in the water release geosmin, which the fish then absorb.
Can You Eat Raw Beets?
You can eat beets raw, although many people like to cook, boil or roast beets because of the dirt-like taste. Raw beets are sweet and nutritious and can be added to salads, pickled dishes, and other foods. Many raw beet dishes contain vinegar or other additives to balance the taste.
Raw beets are rich in potassium, Vitamin C, Vitamin B-6, and magnesium, all of which are essential to staying healthy. Beets can help boost your immune system, promote a healthy heart, protect the liver, and can be helpful in treating dementia, anxiety, and other mental issues.
Cooking beets may lower some of the nutritional content, which is why nutritionists recommend eating them raw. You can add them to a salad or make a sweet beetroot juice mix with other fruits.
While beets are generally sweet, they do taste like dirt, which can make some people hesitant to try them out. However, you can remove the dirt taste from beets by cooking or roasting them or preparing them in vinegar. Beets are packed with nutrition and are high in carbohydrates, so find creative ways to add them to your dishes.