Beet juice prevents icy streets

Beet juice is useful as a de-icer for streets. Road crews in Cincinnati, Ohio will dump a slurry of 10 percent beet juice, salt, and calcium chloride on streets during the coming snowstorms. According to an Associated Press article from last month, beet juice is now becoming a popular deicer in the Midwest because of the liquid's low freezing temperature and harmlessness to roads and cars. I'm glad I don't live in Cincinnati anymore. I can't stand beets. Link (Thanks, Carlo Longino!)


  1. I wonder if they’re using some variety of beet that isn’t red; otherwise, the streets of Cincinnati will look like they’re running in blood. Hey, just like Watchmen!

  2. I would imagine if you mixed any fluid with salt, and calcium chloride it would prevent ice build up.

    I’d suggest salt, calcium chloride and vodka, with just a twist of lime.

  3. Of all things to be to drive you from Cincy -race riots, oppressive conservatism, a government that hates the arts, etc etc – it’s beets that make you happy you’re out of there.

    You must really love Skyline. (OK I admit I’ve considered moving back for Greaters Double CHoclate Chip.)

  4. Beets is good eats. It makes your urine pink/red and when mixed with asparagus is body modification at it’s finest.

    From Tom Robbins:

    For Darrell Bob Houston

    THE BEET IS THE MOST INTENSE of vegetables. The onion has as many pages as ‘War and Peace’, every one of which is poignant enough to make a strong man weep, but the various ivory parchments of the onion and the stinging green bookmark of the onion are quickly charred by belly juices and bowel bacteria. Only the beet departs the body the same color is it went in.

    Beet consumed at dinner will, come morning, stock a toilet bowl with crimson fish, their hue attesting to the beets chromatic immunity to the powerful digestive acids and thoroughgoing microbes that can turn the reddest pimento, the orangest carrot, the yellowest squash into a single disgusting shade of brown.

    At birth we are red-faced, round intense, pure. The crimson fire of universal consciousness burns in us. Gradually, however, we are devoured by parents, gulped by schools, chewed up by peers, swallowed by social institutions, wolfed by bad habits, and gnawed by age; and by the time we have been digested, cow style, in those six stomachs, we emerge a single disgusting shade of brown.

    The lesson of the beet, then, is this: Hold on to your divine blush, your innate rosy magic, or end up brown. Once you’re brown, you’ll find that you’re blue. As blue as indigo. And you know what that means:


  5. In a snowstorm I would think they’d be better off using sand for traction. Save the salt for icy mornings.

  6. Oh noes! People who subsist on beets will starve as crops are diverted to de-icing duties!

    Another positive result here is that ppl in Cinci will be able to dip their quill pens in the gutter to use the beet juice for ink. Mud will be prettier!

  7. Chemically, anything can serve as a de-icer. Some are just more effective than others.

    Sand is just as good as salt at getting the ice off roads, but it’s harder to clean up than salt.

  8. I don’t agree that sand is as effective as salt as a deicer. Adding sand to water will not lower its freezing point, while adding salt to it will.

    I remember hearing a news story on NPR about this a year or two ago. I believe the beet juice they’re using is colorless, or close to it.

  9. Sand is used for traction, not for melting ice. The problem with using too much salt on the roads is that it damages vehicles and it starts to kill the plants along the side of the road.

  10. Obviously, you’ve never had good borscht, then, or you wouldn’t want them wasting perfectly good beets on that.

    And, since my Baba (“grandmother”) just taught me how to make hers last week, here’s the recipe. Pardon that it’s not all cleaned up – still in the middle of cleaning it up. But hey, consider it Open Source and post a better version. ;) FWIW, this is not the vinegar-infused variety, nor are there red hunks in the soup, nor does it taste like beets. My grandmother tells me that she was always considered the go-to person by the local church, since her borscht was the best. Either way, I enjoy it a lot. Long live beets!

    Olga’s Borscht
    Meat: purchase both bone-in (1.5lb) and boneless (1 lb) beef short ribs. (probably choice, but I don’t think it matters). However, make sure it’s not too fatty.
    The boneless provides the meat, but you really need the bone to add substance.
    3 Beets, fresh. If you wind up with light-colored ones, don’t cook as long.
    1 leek
    1 head cabbage
    7 medium potatoes
    3 stalks celery
    4 big carrots
    1 medium onion
    1 green bell pepper

    Cover beef with water in medium-large cookpot. Heat on med high. Let boil one minute then pour out. This gets rid of the “crud”. Clean bowl, rinse off meat, then stick back in pot.

    Peel beets, slice fairly thin (think thick potato chips) then into strips. Let sit in cold water for a few minutes, then pour out. Do this a few times. You’re trying to get some of the red out.

    Add water to meat (more than covering, probably 2/3 of pot – remember that this determines how much broth there is, but also that it will have to hold all the veggies), along with one onion (whole but “skinned”) and beets. Simmer for 75-90 minutes (until a knife no longer holds onto a piece). Remove onion. (Use slotted spoon as the onion will fall apart). The soup will have acquired a reddish hue, and the beets should be pink instead of red, and possibly whiter than that.

    Chill overnight to make it easy to skim the fat, as well as enhance the flavor.

    Day 2:
    Skim fat.

    Remove meat.

    Cut bell pepper in half, deseed, and add to pot.

    Peel and chop four big carrots (cut end in half then slice – you want small pieces).

    Add to pot, set on medium high (we need to get it to a boil so it can simmer with the vegetables)

    Chop three stalks of celery (split in 3 to ensure small pieces) – add to pot.

    Clean leek well, cut into quarters, then chop very fine. As you get to the end of the white, remove the outer leaves, since there’s still some white to be had on the outer leaves, whereas the inner ones will already be brown.

    Set pot to medium low to simmer for a while – you want to get all the vegetables cooked. Also important as the flavors are mixing from all the vegetables.

    Peel seven medium potatoes – after peeled, soak in a separate bowl of water, to keep them from browning.

    Cut meat into small, bite-sized bits, removing the excess fat and bones. You won’t be able to get much meat off the bone-in.

    Cut potatoes into small pieces (half, then strips, then dice)

    Turn up heat to high then add potatoes and remove the green pepper. Leave on high until boiling then turn down.

    Add 2 knorr vegetable buillion cubes

    Slice cabbage in half along core, then again into quarters. Shred by cutting perpendicular to first cut, but cut around core (we don’t want core). Cut strips in half – don’t want them too long.

    Check potatoes for doneness – this will only take a few minutes, since the pieces are so small.

    Crank heat so that it’s boiling again. High, since it has to recover from….
    Add cabbage (about 1/2 cabbage) and beef

    Add 1-2 beef bouillon cubes, crushing up then adding. If you need more salt, add more cubes.

    Add 1 15oz can of tomato sauce (you can add more if it’s watery, but that should be rare)

    Cabbage boils for one minute, no more.

    Remove from heat. Add 1-2 teaspoons of dill (optional). Serve with Sour Cream (optional)

  11. I am currently residing in the Nasty ‘Nati and have yet to notice any beet smell, color, or odor plaguing our streets after snow storms. Worry not, you can return for a visit without being haunted by your beety foes.

  12. ‘Beet juice’ is a bit of a simplification- it includes a byproduct of sugar refining- this uses Sugar Beet, not the purple/red beets used for Borscht etc.

    It’s been used in the UK for a couple of years now under the name ‘Safecote’.
    It’s supposedly less damaging to vehicles, roads and verges than using salt alone…

  13. Reminds me of one winter in the ’80s in Iowa. A big spice company somehow made a huge batch of contaminated garlic salt. Since the stuff wasn’t fit for human consumption they donated it to the city of Des Moines for use in their road salting trucks. For some reason that winter, everybody in town got hungry for some Italian the day after a snowstorm.

  14. My city – London, Ontario, Canada – has been doing this for a few years. It seems to work, but the key is being pre-emptive – i.e. knowing when a Big Freeze is coming and getting the roads sprayed.

  15. @philipshade
    “oppressive conservatism”
    Puhleeeze, Conservatism???? Cincinnati bows down to the liberal gods of PC and multiculturalism with the best of the “blue” cities – and that stinks far worse than any beet juice.

  16. In my little corner of the midwest I’ve heard DOT mixes molasses with the salt to help it stick to the streets. Since it’s sugar beets, maybe it has the same purpose.

    Most refined sugar comes from beets nowadays.

    @mbourgon – I really miss my babcia’s borscht. Yours sounds good.

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