The joys of growing Beetroot
Rainbow beetroot is the ultimate vegetable to brighten up your month! In my humble opinion, what makes beetroot so glorious, is that you can enjoy it fresh from the garden nearly all year round. After all of the rich festive foods, many of you may have enjoyed over Christmas, a simple plate of highly nutritious roasted beetroot hits the spot.
When it comes to growing beetroot, it's almost as simple as roasting it. I grew mine in a couple of different locations which has allowed me to enjoy it's fantastic colour and flavour for months on end. I chose to grow Rainbow Beetroot for obvious reasons, the colours! January always needs a little brightening up, so it’s the perfect choice for many winter warming feasts.
For my first year growing beetroot, I must say I have been very impressed! I planted my first beets in a trough in the greenhouse back in March, and a month later their colourful stalks had started to push through the soil. By the end of June, I had already managed to harvest a variety of big and small beetroot, and it was as quick as that! I think they taste delicious all of the time, so it doesn't really matter when you pick them, so long as they haven't gotten too big and woody.
To keep the harvest going, I planted some more seeds in my raised root vegetable bed outside in April. I'm still reaping the rewards now, in January! Thanks to the wonderful English weather we have been experiencing, colder conditions have meant it has taken longer for them to grow; so my family and I have been able to enjoy these colourful, misshapen globes of deliciousness nearly all year.
Lessons learned from my first Beetroot harvest
Now, although I have had a successful harvest, there are some things I will do differently next season. First, they need more space. I did my usual, wanting every seed to have a chance to shine, and didn't move any once sprouted. This meant that some bunched up near each other, whereas others went rogue and out of line. I thought to myself, surely it's better just to leave them be? However, this meant that some grew monstrously fast and left the others small, struggling to catch up.
Although happy with my harvest, I realised I wasn't giving them enough space to grow. In hindsight, it would have been more beneficial to pick out the smaller plants and leave more space between each beetroot. This would have given more room for my beetroots to grow and form, instead of them fighting for space and nutrients.
Me and my freshly-picked beets!
This leads me to the second thing I will change this coming growing season: staggered planting. Excitement took over last year, and after the success I was having in the greenhouse, I planted my remaining seeds outside all at once. This year, I plan to stagger the planting and leave a couple of weeks in between, which will allow me to harvest well-grown and nourished beetroot all year long.
Beetroot is incredibly hardy, but like many of us, they do need a little T.L.C through the colder months. If you plan to leave your beetroot in the ground over winter, you can protect them from frost by covering them in a layer of straw or horticultural fleece. If you would rather avoid heading out in the depths of winter to gather the goodies, you can harvest them in late autumn/ early winter and store them in wooden boxes in a cold, dry shed or garage until you're ready to eat them.
Tips for storing freshly-grown beets
To stop the beetroot from drying out or rotting, it's best to keep them spaced out, in between some layers of moist sand. The sand should be moist, as dry sand can draw out the beetroot’s moisture, and nobody wants a dry beetroot!
Another useful tip is to twist the green tops off of the beetroots, instead of cutting them, to avoid them bleeding and going soft.
There you have it, delicious beetroot that will last all winter, no need to pop to the shops!
A Recipe for Chunky Beetroot Soup with Feta Cheese
This recipe is a real winter warmer, and such a wonderful colour for the cold January days if you manage to resist eating all of the roasted beetroots before you make it into the soup, congratulations! It's worth the wait.
- 4 medium-sized beetroot, washed and roughly chopped
- 4 medium-sized carrots, washed and roughly chopped
- 5 cloves of garlic, papery layers removed
- 1 red onion, peeled and chopped into chunks
- A small handful of fresh thyme
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 tbsp honey
- 2 litres of vegetable or chicken stock
- 2 tbsp creme fraiche
- Feta Cheese
- Lambs lettuce
- Heat the oven to around 180℃. Place the prepared beetroots, garlic, carrots and onion into the roasting tin with the coconut oil and sprinkle with thyme, salt, pepper and a drizzle of honey. Cover the tin with foil and pop into the oven for about 45minutes, or until the beetroot are tender.
- Once cooked, remove any thyme stalks and set aside a few chunks of beetroot and carrot for later. Transfer the roasted vegetables into a deep pan with the stock. Bring to the boil. Once it has boiled, blend until smooth using a hand blender.
- Stir in the creme fraiche until thoroughly blended.
- Ladle the soup into your favourite bowl and decorate with the roasted carrot and beetroot set aside earlier. Sprinkle some crumbled feta and lambs lettuce on top for extra finesse.