Beetroot

Sow: April – June, possibly as late as July for baby beets.
Harvest: September – November
Conditions: A sunny position in damp soil.

Beetroot is a great staple for the victory garden. They keep for a good length of time, can be pickled for extra flavour and you can also cook and eat the leaves, much as you would spinach.

Sow beetroot into the soil directly after the last frost. Once the seedlings appear, thin out to about 4 inches between seedlings and 10 inches between rows. Keep them watered regularly – the roots need to grow in a damp environment to prevent them from drying out and spoiling the flavour.

Pick when the beets are somewhere between the size of a golf ball (3cm diameter) for baby beets and a tennis ball (7cm diameter) for full size beets – any bigger and both flavour and texture are seriously diminished. The smaller beets are more tender and have a sweeter taste, so it’s worth picking at each stage.

Containers:

Like carrots, you can grow beetroot in containers. The only reason it’s not as practical is because of the space needed between each beet. If you have a large enough container though, it’s an ideal environment because it offers better protection from slugs. They’re pretty low maintenance though, so apart from keeping the soil damp, they need no special attention in containers.

Storage:

Fresh: Beets can be stored in a cold, dark place surrounded by damp material such as sand or paper, surrounded by straw to keep the water in.

Freezing: Much the same as beans, you can freeze whole beets individually and then put them in a bag together. That way, they won’t stick together and damage each other.

Pickled: Wash the roots and boil in pan of water and a little vinegar for 30-45 minutes. When cool, peel and slice the beets and place them in a sterilised jar. Pour a boiling mixture of vinegar, sugar and some spices of your choice over the top and seal the jar. Two months later, they should be good to eat.

Companion Planting:

GOOD: Basil, Brassicas, Chives, Garlic, Lettuce, Mint, Onions

BAD: Beans

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