You’ve chosen a beet as the subject for your next tattoo. Even if you’ve got your own meaning for the vegetable, you might still be curious about beetroot tattoos: history, meanings, and designs.
Beets have a variety of meanings and associations across European cultures. You can incorporate these into your tattoo design, or leave your beet on its own.
What is the History of Beetroot Tattoos?
Since skin is hard to preserve, there’s not a whole lot of physical evidence of beetroot tattoos. However, historians do know the plant held some importance in European cultures. The idea some individuals got a tattoo of a beet isn’t too out there.
Since beets produce a range of colors, from yellow to a deep purple, their juice was popular as a natural dye, makeup, and component of ink. It’s not too outlandish to think maybe beet juice made its way into tattoo ink as well.
What do Beetroot Symbolize?
For centuries, beets were a wild plant. Many European cultures, even back to antiquity, used and consumed wild beetroots.
According to ancient Greek mythology, the goddess of love Aphrodite loved beets. In both Greek and Roman cultures, beets and their juice were aphrodisiacs and beauty enhancers. Depictions of beets made their way onto early Valentine’s Day cards, continuing the plant’s association with love and romance.
Women in ancient Celtic cultures used beet juice as both lipstick and blush, taking the “beauty enhancers” aspect to the next level.
Farmers didn’t cultivate the beetroot plant mainly for eating until the 16th century. Even then, beet greens were the popular part of the plant, not the taproot. Beet greens are a traditional food item at Rosh Hashanah, or Jewish New Year, celebrations in September.
What do Beetroot Tattoos Mean?
Those of European Jewish descent often associate beets with their diaspora. You have to remove a beet from the earth to eat it. For some, this reflects the experience of many Eastern European Jews. Beets were a popular ingredient of many of their foods. In addition, the regimes of many antisemitic monarchs and governments meant thousands of Jews lost their homes and towns.
Since beet greens are often a part of Rosh Hashanah, a beetroot tattoo could reinforce this meaning.
While a beet tattoo can represent uprooting, it can also represent the opposite. It could mean you feel rooted to something, whether it’s a place, person, or culture.
Since a beet is roughly the same shape and color as a heart, it could also represent love or romance. The association with Aphrodite helps this meaning, too.
More recently, beets also developed an association with the U.S. version of The Office. Popular character Dwight Schrute “inherits” a beet and hemp farm, as well as a bed and breakfast.
Beet tattoos, sometimes as part of the Schrute Farms logo, honor the show and Dwight.
Characteristics and Styles of Beetroot Tattoos
There are a few things you’ll want to consider when designing your beetroot tattoo. I’ll go over some considerations below.
Style and Color
You can get a stunning beet tattoo in either black and grey or color. However, depending on what type of beet you want or how you want to present it, color might be a better option. Beets are colorful plants, and you can choose to emphasize that in your tattoo. Keep in mind color tattoos are generally more expensive than black and grey styles.
Beets lend themselves to multiple artistic styles, from a simple outline or silhouette to ornate and colorful pieces. You’ll want to consider your style carefully, since beets work well in multiple tattooing styles. My suggestions would be watercolor, new school, realism, or neotraditional, but obviously the ultimate style choice is up to you.
Here’s a helpful guide to popular tattooing styles.
How Much of the Beet do You Want?
Do you want your beet to be in the earth, or removed? Beets can either symbolize uprooting or feeling rooted. You can convey either depending on your choice.
You can include the greens, or just the taproot of the beet. The inclusion of the greens will make your tattoo larger, and it will probably need more space on your body.
Do you want your beetroot sliced or whole in your tattoo? Some beet varieties, like candy-striped, lend themselves better to slicing, as their interior has a fun striped pattern.
If you’re getting a beet tattoo because you’re an avid gardener, you might want to pair your beet with another vegetable, or multiple. Carrots tend to be a popular choice, since they’re also root vegetables. You can also get multiple beets bunched together.
Beets admittedly don’t lend themselves to many obvious pairings in a tattoo. However, if you have a great idea for one, get creative! The association with the Greek goddess Aphrodite might give you some inspiration. Maybe you want a tattoo of her holding a beet.
Matching Beet Tattoos
The association between beets and love makes them a fun option for matching tattoos, especially if they’re small. You can plan on a matching beet tattoo with a friend, spouse, or romantic partner.
If you’re of Jewish descent, you might be considering a beet tattoo as a representation of that heritage. Obviously, only pair a beet with Yiddish or Hebrew script if you have a connection to that culture. You want to avoid cultural appropriation with your tattoo.
Some Jewish denominations also forbid tattoos, so it’s best to check if yours is one of them before getting a beet tattoo.
Obviously, The Office can give you inspiration for your beet tattoo if it’s one of your favorite shows. You might consider the logo for Schrute Farms, which includes a beet. Some people have tattoos of a beet with Dwight’s glasses or face on it. You can also include the phrase “Bears, Beets, Battlestar Galactica” with your tattoo.
Where do Beetroot Tattoos Usually Go?
Depending on the size of your beetroot tattoo, it can really go anywhere on your body. Popular locations are the legs and the forearms.
Beetroot is a vegetable with a variety of surprising meanings and associations. Depending on style and pairings, you can convey many of these ideas, including love, Eastern European Jewish heritage, or a love of the U.S. version of The Office. Good luck with your new piece!