Many people’s first experience of beetroot is eating pickled beetroot sliced or grated in salads.
Less people are aware that it is delicious eaten hot, either boiled, or even better roasted (the tip is to leave the skin on and not to cut the flesh before cooking to keep all the flavours wrapped up inside).
Beetroot is easy to grow, and suffers from very few problems or pests.
- Outdoors in situ March – June
- Planting depth: 2 cm and covered with a fine soil
- Planting spacing: 12 cm between plans (thin after sowing) and 30 cm between rows
- June – October
- Leave on the plot and eat as required (mature beetroot can withstand frost)
The best time to sow beetroot seeds is in the spring when the weather starts to feel warmer, and to continue sowing in succession until mid-summer. I place my seeds about 2 to 3 centimetres apart in a shallow trench that I have previously watered, and then Ioosely cover with soil.
The red flesh of beetroot is reflected in it’s characterful red veined leaves. When young, the red lined leaves help you distinguish beetroot seedlings from any weeds growing around them.
Some varieties of beetroot leaves are edible. They are best when eaten young in salads. A good time to harvest the leaves is when you are thinning your young beetroot plants.
Beetroot plants thrive best when kept well watered to avoid the flesh going woody. You can see the size of your growing beetroots above ground level. Gently ease away the top earth to see the size of the bulbs. I have found the best size for flavour is somewhere between a ping pong ball and a tennis ball.
Beetroots come in a range of colours and sizes. Some varieties claim to taste better when eating fresh in salads, others are good for pickling.
If you have sandy soil, look for varieties that are ‘bolt hardy’. This means they are more tolerant to dry conditions and less likely to run to flower before harvest.