We tend to have a love-hate relationship with beetroot – but this underrated veg has become a must-have at No.27.
Okay, so your chopping board might resemble a horror movie after you’ve prepared one – and yes, I have gone to work with those indelible pink stains on my fingertips and maybe up my arms too – but rich in colour (packed with antioxidants) and earthy in flavour….very few veg have such versatility. Chuck them in soups, roast with herbs, pickle and marinate or fold into a chocolately brownie mix for a secret five-a-day for the kids! The options are endless.
The key to beets-for-eats is in the size. While it might be easy to indulge your competitive streak and go for ‘exhibition’ big – this is usually what happens with me, planned or otherwise. Smaller is definitely better! Pick the roots when they are golf-ball sized and you will be rewarded with a sweeter and softer texture, plus oodles of flavour.
‘Boltardy’ is the popular and well known member of the beetroot family, but there is a new, improved relative on the scene who is causing a stir and wants it’s time to shine. Beetroot ‘Boston’!
You can grow these rich beauties in five easy steps:
- Soak the seed prior to sowing as this helps to speed up germination. Are you as impatient as me?!
- Start off in modules on the windowsill or sow direct by making a shallow line in your soil with a cane or trowel, then water the row.
- Sow your seeds around 5cm apart for small beets, or 10cm for big beets and cover with 3cm soil.
- As soon as the seedlings are big enough to handle, take out the smaller, weaker ones or alternate seedlings. This is called ‘thinning’ and gives the remaining bulbs the space to swell. (Psst! You can eat your thinnings in salads as a micro-veg!)
- Don’t panic if you forget to thin them out, they will just knock each other out the way and grow together in different directions.
- Sow another row once the first row pops up (about 10-14 days), for a continuous supply all summer. You can sow right up until the end of July.
Of course, these rounded roots are also perfect for containers too, just like many root veg. Their attractive leaves mean they can look lovely planted among your favourite flowers and herbs….perhaps Borage, Basil or Verbena? Being portable, you can provide shelter if bad weather strikes – plus, extend your growing time by getting in some extra sowings undercover at the beginning and end of the year.
It might be tempting to lavish your beet crop with daily drinks, but hold back. While prolonged drought will produce fibrous roots, overwatering equals lots of leafy growth. While this is great for salads, it will be at the expense of the bulb so a sprinkle once a week is perfect in cool weather, twice a week in hot.
Did you know a tablespoon of vinegar in the cooking water helps retain beetroot’s vivid colour and older, larger beets benefit from a pinch of sugar in the water to keep the sweetness? Here’s some other great ways to enjoy them…
Roasted dippers: For the best flavour, bake your beets instead of boiling. Chop into chunks, add a glug of oil, some sprigs of fresh thyme and a dash of orange juice, then roast for 30 minutes at 180C until tender. Dip in a dollop of horseradish sauce mixed with crème fraiche.
Homemade crisps: Slice two beetroot very thinly and coat in oil, salt, a pinch of paprika and a little vinegar before leaving to marinate for a few hours. Bake on the lowest heat for four hours until crisp.
Disco slaw: Mix grated raw beetroot with grated red cabbage, chopped red onions, finely chopped chilli, chopped mint and parsley, then toss with lemon juice and olive oil.
Pink dip: Chuck 400g cooked chickpeas, 250g beetroot, 1 crushed garlic clove, 2tbsp tahini, a squeeze of lemon juice, 2tsp ground cumin, 100ml olive oil and a pinch of salt into a food processor. Blend into a smooth paste and serve with crudites or hunks of bread.
Sweet Tooth?! Make this cheeky yet healthy pud for all the family:
Beetroot Bake: Preheat your oven to gas mark 4/180C and grease a shallow baking tray with butter. In a big bowl, mix together 225g self-raising flour, 25g cocoa powder and 1tsp baking powder. Add 110g caster sugar, 110g raw grated beetroot and 2 whisked eggs. Separately in a bain-marie, melt 75g butter and 75g chocolate then add to the mix. Pour onto a baking tray and bake for 50 minutes. Leave to cool, then slice. Yum!!
Last but not least…you need to buy the seeds otherwise all of what I have suggested is impossible…so here you go:
Beetroot Boston (£1.95) is available from www.chilternseeds.co.uk now!
50p from each pack sold will be donated to Life at No.27, with funds going towards alternative therapy options for those battling with mental health illnesses, low confidence and loneliness.
Click the link below to have a nosey and order: https://www.chilternseeds.co.uk/search?q=beetroot+boston
When your order arrives you will also receive a personal postcard and a big virtual hug from me.
Growing beetroot this year? Like the sound of any the recipes? I would love you to comment and let me know.