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I have some raw beetroot I bought about a week ago, having stored them at room temperature since. It's the first time I bought it raw, and I'm unsure whether it's still edible.

It is already soft, and when I cut it, it smells... Well, different than I expected. It's not a rotten smell as such, but it's nothing like the sweet beet-rooty smell I know from the pre-packaged, pre-boiled supermarket variety.

How can I tell whether it's still safe to eat?

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Once removed from the ground beetroot instantly becomes inedible - I don't know how anybody can eat the stuff!! –  Martin Beckett Feb 4 '11 at 16:34
    
@mgb ahahahahahah! –  Pekka 웃 Feb 4 '11 at 16:35

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Generally, raw beetroot shouldn't become soft. The thing is that there are differing definitions of soft. If it is soft like a tomato is, then it has probably spoiled. If, on the other hand, it is still firm but has little "give" to it, then it's probably alright to eat.

It is the cooking that softens it up, though it can be eaten raw. I grate some raw beetroot into salads and stuff occasionaly, just for fun.

I'm not sure what to say about the smell thing. I think that raw beetroot generally smells a little earthy, especially if you haven't peeled it yet. The very distinct beetroot smell is usually released by cooking.

Obviously this is all a bit vague, as we can't send smells over the net yet.

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This gives me something to go by - I'll have to use my judgement now to make the call. It is still firm, feels a bit like a tennis ball with a soft surface, so I tend to think it's okay. Also good to know it can be eaten raw (as opposed to beans etc.) Thanks! –  Pekka 웃 Feb 4 '11 at 13:00
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You could compare the texture to a root vegetable you're more familiar with, like a carrot. If you'd think the carrot was alright to eat, the beetroot probably is too. –  Allison Feb 4 '11 at 14:38
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Carrots can loose moisture and get softer, but you can revive them by wrapping them in a damp paper towel and leaving them in your crisper for a day or two ... I don't know if something similar might've happened to the beets. –  Joe Feb 4 '11 at 16:39

Root vegetables are known for staying edible many months when stored in the right conditions: cool and humid. Traditionally this was a root cellar under the house that stayed above freezing in winter, yet cool in summer. Your refrigerator veggie drawer is made to do the same thing. The veggies you see in supermarket have been kept that way for transport and storage (sometimes even covered with waxy coating to preserve moisture). When they're brought out for display in the produce section, they are still kept cool and misted periodically to stay fresh-looking. If you don't keep them in those conditions they will become limp or soft, which can sometimes be reversed by returning to a high humidity environment.

All that to say, it's normal and probably reversible, but don't worry, people have been eating and storing beets since long before refrigeration.

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