Growing Real Food – Beetroot

In my ever conquering quest to get more people to grow their own fruit and veg,  I wrote a series of blog posts last year on individual veggies, fruits and herbs to show everyone just how easy some are to grow.

The series, of five, which delved into runner beans, parsley, strawberries, blueberries and radishes were all chosen because they are very simple to grow and delicious to either use in cooking or eat by themselves.

Now we’re in the midst of a new gardening year I thought I’d create a new series.

Five more posts on fruit and vegetables that are just really simple to grow and can be grown well in the smallest of places.

I’ve grown every single veg/fruit or herb that I post about which means I can guarantee they are easy to grow!  It also means that I won’t be posting on lettuce, broccoli, nor redcurrants as I have not been successful with those (yet!).

If you want to give any of the choices a go please let me know, and be sure to post your experiences of growing them right below the post –  I’d really like to hear from you!

Week 4 – Beetroot

A versatile little root vegetable in the penultimate growing series.

Beetroot has been around since the 5th Century.  It originally evolved from Seabeet which is a native plant up and down the coastlines of Britain.  Originally having been cultivated in areas of the Middle East and parts of the Mediterranean it was often the leaves rather than the beet that was eaten.  It wasn’t until Victorian times that the vegetable was used in British cooking bringing colour and variety to the table.

Why grow Beetroot?

Beetroot has equal lovers and haters due to it’s acquired taste.  It’s a very sweet vegetable that is mostly served cold in salad. However while it can be chomped, it can also be turned into liquid juice, and while most will consume the root the leaves also make delicious salad leaves or as a substitute for spinach.

The health benefits of beetroot are tremendous.  Not only do athletes drink beetroot juice to sustain energy levels and boost metabolism, but it’s good for the rest of us too.

Research conducted on eating or drinking beet reduces cholesterol, stabilizes sugar levels and helps keep osteoarthritis as bay.  It really is a powerful vegetable to have as part of your every day diet.

Beetroot is very simple to grow and you’d don’t need loads of room to get a decent crop.  Beets can also been grown in post which makes it the ideal crop to grow in small spaces.

So, how to grow Beetroot?

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Beetroot can be grown either by seed or by buying a set of ready germinated plants from your local garden centre.  I’ve grown beetroot for about six years now and only ever grown it from seed.

Seed is dirt cheap (excuse the pun) – you can get a packet of 200 seeds for as little as 69p.  The easiest variety to grow will be Boltardy but there are at least five other, including roots that grow yellow if you fancy something unusual.

  • Prepare the ground ready for sowing ensuing extra nutrients have been added such as manure or compost.  The add fertilizer to further feed the growing area.
  • Sowing seeds can be done in drills, circles – any shape you prefer.  Depending on the space available.  Create the space and then sow the seeds, covering lightly with soil.
  • Once the seedlings appear (after about 10 days), start to thin the plants out leaving a space of about 10cm’s between plants.
  • Keep the plants watered during dry spells.
  • No further work necessary (unless you see weeds in which case hand pluck them out from around the beets.  Using a hoe may well break unseen beet roots and cause bleeding to the plants.)
  • 8-10 weeks later the beets will be ready for harvesting
  • Expand the growing season by sowing little and often.

Important bit:

Beetroot seed can be difficult to germinate so always buy fresh seed (or collect from previous years plants) and soak them in water for 30 minutes before sowing them.  This helps speed the germination up.

Don’t grow beetroot before mid Spring time outdoors as the seedlings will likely die in either a late frost or cold nights.  Instead you could either start them off indoors or cloche the area sown to get them started in Spring.

If too much watering takes place the beets will grow loads of leafy green tops at the expense of the root.  If that starts to happen lay off the watering until the soil becomes dry.  Unless you want lots of leafy growth to eat in which case – water on!

Pests and Diseases

No real pests or diseases that effect the beets which is why they are such a firm favourite in our garden.  Leaves do tend to get attacked by slugs and snails but this shouldn’t damage the vegetable.

Down the line

Beetroot can be left in the ground until you want to eat them which is another good reason for sowing little and often so you’ve always got the best fresh, and smaller, beets to choose from.

I left some beetroot all summer and into Autumn last year and they still tasted great at the end of October.  They are better left in the ground than taking up and putting in the fridge where they will quickly decline in both taste and flavour.

If you want to reclaim your growing space then pickling is what beets were really made for.

  • Cook the beets until tender
  • Sterilize some jam jars.
  • Create your own pickling vinegar mix in a saucepan and bring to boil.  Then let it cool.
  • Add beetroot and pickling mix to jar.  Leave for a couple of week then eat!

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So what did you think?  Was that useful at all or do I waffle too much?  More importantly – does it make you want to have a go at growing beetroot?

If you’re growing beetroot, or any other vegetable this year and this blog has helped please add your name to the growers list.  Be part of the growing good crowd!

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16 thoughts on “Growing Real Food – Beetroot

  1. I love beet pickles – my mother used to grow beets and make pickles, as did most people in our town back then. My mom used the beet-pickle juice to pickle eggs too — so startling in their purple color, and delicious. I think it’s what we call a Pennsylvania-Dutch recipe to do that (her family). I don’t often pickle my own now, but always save the juice to use if I buy them.

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  2. Great post . But you didn’ t mention the alarming after effects of it. I have a friend who went to the doctor after eating it because he thought he had bowel cancer. There’ s no delicate way of saying why he thought that.

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  3. I didn’t know that the seed should be soaked… will need to try that next time! The baby leaves are good in salads to add a bit of variety. Have you tried the golden varieties – I haven’t yet, but would be interested to know how they taste.

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  4. These beets look lovely! Ive been growing them for years, but sometimes they get away from me, and turn into monsters. Over the past few years Ive worked out the best way to eat them when they get to that size is to make them into my fab beetroot relish! Check it out, its great on burgers, steaks, even with breakfast. http://bit.ly/1j1h4zV

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