janet @ the taste space

Iraqi Pomegranate Stew (Shorbat Rumman)

In Mains (Vegetarian), Soups on February 10, 2012 at 6:20 AM

I will admit that when I mentioned my pee turns red after consuming red beets, I thought I was in the majority.

When asking someone about their bloody urine as a doctor, the first thing is to rule out causes that are not bloody (like eating beets).

It happens to me on occasion (red urine from beets) and as such, I thought it was pretty common.

Then I decided to do a very quick literature search.

Not that I delved into the primary studies, but apparently beeturia (what you call red urine from beets) is only present in 10-15% of people. It is caused by the increased absorption and then excretion of betalaine, the reddish pigment found in red beets.

Delving into its chemistry, it turns out that because betalaine will be protected by reducing agents like oxalates, consuming foods high in oxalates like spinach and rhubarb will enhance beeturia.  Furthermore, it is decolorized by ferric ions, colonic bacteria and stomach acids (hydrochloric acid). As such, if you don’t consume enough iron, you may get beeturia. Same thing if your stomach acid is out of whack, say from pernicious anemia.

Anyways, I thought 10-15% of people was pretty low. I decided to do an informal poll. Beeturia sufferers=4. No beeturia=2. Do not consume beets=4. Both of my no beeturia friends mentioned they get red poo, though (although I didn’t ask my other friends).

I kind of want to do a scientific study, actually. Give a specific amount of beets to a bunch of people and ask them for their urine to see if it is red (hmm, maybe I would need a pre-beet control urine sample, too). It sounds gross, I know, but my curiosity is piqued.

Not everyone enjoys beets, but let me share with you yet another great beet recipe. I am totally biased, since I love all colour of beets, in many different forms. But really, this is a great soup. And it isn’t borscht.

I originally spotted this Iraqi Pomegranate Stew on Julia’s blog. I am always thrilled to find new ways to add pomegranate molasses to my meals, and I was tickled pink when I saw it had many of my other favourite ingredients- beets, spinach, split peas, lime juice, cinnamon, cilantro and even mint! (Aside, can you see how different my tastes are from Rob’s coconut-tamarind-chile love trifecta? Although I love tamarind, too).

The flavours of stew combine the salty, sweet, and savoury perfectly. It helped that I followed Julia’s recommendation of adding more split peas and rice, and removing the sugar altogether. The pomegranate molasses gives this a nice sweet tang all by its lonesome.

This also produces a glorious red soup, speckled with the green spinach and herbs. What better way to say you love someone, then by making them a gloriously delicious healthy red soup. Except, it might make you pee red, too.

So tell me, if you dare, do you get beeturia?

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes, to this week’s Wellness Weekend, to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Vanessa and to My Kitchen, My World for Iraq.

Iraqi Pomegranate Stew (Shorbat Rumman)

2 tsp olive oil
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup dry split peas (I used yellow split peas)
4 cups vegetable stock
2 small red beets, peeled and diced
1/2 cup brown rice
1/2 cup scallions, sliced
1 1/2 tbsp lime juice (half a lime)
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1/2 bunch spinach, chopped (150g prepped)
2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
salt, to taste
1/2 tbsp dried mint
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp white pepper

1. Saute onions in a large sauce pan.  Add split peas, stir, then add stock and simmer one hour.

2. Add beets and rice, cook 30 minutes more.

3. Add scallions, lime juice, pomegranate molasses, a pinch of salt, and parsley.  Simmer 15 more minutes.

4. Bring to a boil and add spinach.  Turn off heat, cover and let wilt few more minutes.

5. Meanwhile, mix together the dried mint, cinnamon and white pepper. Set aside.

6. Stir in cilantro, adjust seasonings to taste, then serve, garnishing with the dried mint mixture.

Serves 4.

  1. I don’t think ive noticed the red pee. I’ll have to try again….although I just got white beets.
    Love this dish. So interesting with the mint and cinnamon!

    • Thanks, Dawn! I can’t wait to see what you make with your white beets! I have never seen white beets before!! (I also don’t think they change pee colour, either)

      I have had some chioggia beets for a while, hoping to make a raw beet ravioli since they lose their stripes once cooked… 😉

  2. I thought this was normal too, and was surprised to find out we’re in the small minority. I often forget about this and think I might be dying, then realize “oh yeah, I had beets last night”. It happens to me when I eat even half a beet.

  3. It doesn’t get me but my husband has beeturia anytime we eat beets. It is funny how it only impacts certain people. I’ve also definitely noticed beet coloring in excrement for both myself and the baby. It can cause a minor panic until I remember that we had beets! This sounds like a delicious stew!

  4. I can’t wait to try this..going shopping today!

  5. My mom has the red pee afflicting… although she didn’t realize it at first and actually went to the Dr. thinking she was peeing blood! LOL!

    This soup looks amazing – I want to go buy all the ingredients now!

  6. I get The Beets (as we call them) sometimes, not always. I think at least three others in my family do, too. (Though I’m the only one who can smell asparagus-urine, which is apparently also rare, but supposedly genetic?)

    This is so going on my Make This Week list, too!

  7. You betcha I get beeturia and other excrements are decidely reddened as well…………..

  8. I bet I would love this stew from the description of it! I’ve never tried pomegranate molasses…is it expensive, or is there a substitute you would recommend? (ps. I love how involved you’ve gotten in researching beeturia!)

    • I can’t remember where you live… but no, pomegranate molasses isn’t expensive and if you love sweet-sour-tangy things, then I highly recommend it. I’ve seen it for $3 at places like No Frills here in Toronto (and my beloved Sunny’s). It has actually become more mainstream, especially in grocery stores that cater to Middle Eastern communities. I’ve seen it next to the bulgur. You can also try making your own homemade version from pomegranate juice. Kevin has a recipe here: http://www.closetcooking.com/2009/11/pomegranate-molasses-and-pomegranate.html

      • Okay, thanks for the info! I’m in KW (most of the time) and there are a lot of grocery stores here that carry international products, so I should be able to find it – I’ll keep my eye out for it next time!

      • I find Food Basics tend to have a great International selection but even a big Loblaws should carry it. I can’t wait to know what you think! 🙂

  9. I thought everyone got red pee from eating beets! I’ve talked about it with my family before so I know they all do. That’s interesting that people who are low in iron are apparently more likely to have red pee from beets because I was tested for my iron level and my doctor said it’s really good. Hm! But then I do eat lots of spinach. Anyway. This beet soup sounds good. 🙂 I still need to try the Rebar bosrcht.

  10. I’ve only had beets a handful of times but I can’t say that I’ve ever gotten beeturia. I just might eat enough of this to change that though. You said pomegranate molasses and it totally reeled me in.

  11. You’re a bit nuts!

  12. Beeturia, no. Beet-poo…sometimes, depending on how many beets I eat at a go. I eat a lot of beets but generally in smallish quantities, so maybe one’s body adjusts.

    That pomegranate molasses, now, I’ve seen it in my local Middle Eastern store and always wondered about it. Your stew looks and sounds scrumptious. And it’s so colourful! I think we must be some sort of weird culinary twins–pretty much everything you make fits right in with my own taste/cooking templates.

  13. I definitely get beeturia, but I’m certain that it’s quantity-based. If I have nice fresh beets, I tend to eat a lot in one go, and then I see the effects. If I’m just eating a little bit, it makes no difference. 🙂

  14. This soup looks wonderful–especially with my new appreciation of beets. In regards to the whole “beeturia,” that is a no. Definitely shows up in the “more solid stuff.” I did have an alarming orange color once that came from an extra large dose of nutritional yeast. 😉

    Thanks for sharing your soup with Souper Sundays!

  15. Thanks for sending this delicious soup to MLLA!
    I am a great fan of beet and Middle-Eastern cuisine, so it looks like a perfect, conforting dish for the extremely cold days we are experiencing now !

  16. This is so funny because I just taught a class on beets today and I’m sitting here eating beet salad. I definitely get beeturia, but I know that I have low iron levels so that might be part of it. I’m very intrigued by the pomegranate molasses. I will now have to make this soup! 🙂

  17. I saw your stew at Wheat Free Meat Free. It looks delicious! We grow tons of beets, so it is always nice to have another recipe for them. I am unfamiliar with pomegranate molasses, but love all things pomegranate, so I will be looking for it.

  18. I eat beets constantly and no red pee. 🙂 I’m happy to help out with your research. hehe

    Anyway, very interesting read and the soup looks lovely.

  19. Yes, yes I do. Funny, I thought it was true for everyone.
    Glad you liked the stew. I’m about to make this beet-sumac hummus: http://www.onearabvegan.com/2012/02/09/hummus-of-the-week-sweet-beet-and-sumac-hummus.

  20. […] Tomato and Lentil Stew with Pomegranate Muhammara (Syrian Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Dip) Iraqi Pomegranate Stew (Shorbat Rumman) White Bean and Barley Salad with a Tomato-Pomegranate-Tarragon Sauce Pomegranate-Lime Asparagus […]

  21. For your research I do get red wee and poo after eating beets. As it stains everything in the kitchen too if you’re not careful so I’m really not surprised. Much more surprised that I might be in a minority. Until now I thought I was normal! At least I don’t get the asparagus wee though! Lovely soup.

  22. I’ve not seen pomegranate molasses anywhere before, but I can imagine they add a lot of flavour. This looks like a really wonderful stew.

  23. […] Janet from the Taste Space: Iraqi Pomegranate Stew […]

  24. Ha ha, that’s really interesting and funny. I wish I could tell you but I don’t often eat beetroot at all, mainly because my husband hates it, it’s expensive here and I don’t like everything getting dyed red but I do quite like it myself and this looks so colourful!
    Thank you for sharing this with Healthy Vegan Fridays. Check back on Friday to see if you were one of the Top 3! We hope to see you again this week. You can submit a post from Friday to end of Tuesday:

    • Thanks, Katherine. Beets are mighty peculiar. Have you ever juiced them? That’s my favourite way to eat them. 🙂

      • Ha ha, yes, that’s a story in itself. While I was pregnant the first time and couldn’t stomach vegetables I bought a juicer. I started juicing beetroot but didn’t realise I should have peeled it first. I almost threw up every time as it tasted like dirt (not surprising as I was juicing dirt) then I had a nasty accident with my juicer, ended up in hospital and my husband threw it away. So I’m a bit scared of them now!

      • Woah – that does sound pretty traumatizing! If anything else, maybe that’s why you still have an aversion to them! 😦

  25. […] gas or flatulence, you win! (For my new readers, I have no shame: I have talked about poop and red pee, […]

  26. […] 5. Julia’s Vegan Kitchen: Julia and I keep exchanging favourite recipes between the two of us. When she says something is good, I leap at the chance to try it out. Our favourite recipes of all time have come from Julia’s recommendations. Some of the keepers I have tried from her include: Split Pea Dal with Ginger and Lime, Besan Chilla, Indian Lentils with Spinach, Indian Roasted Eggplant and Tomatoes with Chickpeas, Iraqi Pomegranate Stew. […]

  27. My parents first realized that I have beeturia when they where changing my diaper and where shocked to find a pink diaper. I have heard that beeturia is genetic.

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