How To Grow Beetroot
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). It is also reputed to make delicious wine.
Apart from it’s flavour, there are very good health reasons for growing beetroot. It is claimed to protect against liver disease, lower blood pressure, and protect against cardiovascula problems.
The beetroot family also contains spinach and chard. I have found beetroot very easy to grow, probably one of the easiest of all vegetables, and it suffers from very few problems or pests. Therefore my guide to growing beetroot is short and I hope it inspires you to have a go!
When To Sow Beetroot
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 recommend using fresh beetroot seed as one year I experienced a very low germination rate with old seed. I have found it best not to sow beetroot in hot dry weather as beetroot seems to like moist soil for germination. 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. 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.
In the picture below you can see a healthy row of beetroot plants that are in need of thinning. A few centimetres apart per plant is sufficient as I have found beetroots naturally push themselves away from each other, meaning that it is possible to get a large number of beetroots per row.
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. I have found the best size for flavour is somewhere between a ping pong ball and a tennis ball. Any bigger than this and they can lose some of their flavour.
How to store beetroot? Some people simply leave their beetroot in the ground over winter – however they can be damaged by hard frosts and lose their flavour.
Alternatively, it is possible to store them in a large box and cover them with sand or even compost. I have found they retain their flavour best when the box is covered and all light is excluded.
Pickling beetroot, beetroot chutneys and beetroot wine are other mouthwatering options!
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