Beetroot, one of the easiest vegetables to grow, is one of the many cultivated varieties of Beta vulgaris. It's a versatile vegetable with a number of health benefits and a range of uses in the kitchen.
Varieties:A wide range of beetroot types are available:
Round ball shaped varieties – These form tennis ball shaped beets just under the soil surface. Ideal for shallow soils.
Long root varieties – These grow long thin beets similar to a carrot. Suit deeply worked soils.
Coloured varieties – Beetroot comes in various colours from the traditional rich red through to yellow, white and pink types.
When, where and how to plant:The best months for planting beetroot are from September through to April, once the soil has warmed up and dried out. Soaking seeds in water a day before planting helps to separate the seeds.
Make sure to choose a sunny position and work over well so that soil is approximately three times higher than the depth of the seed.
Beetroot likes a sweet soil; add lime prior to planting. You will find some garden centres have beetroot plants available as seedlings. Make sure when planting seedlings that the soil is deep enough to allow the roots to develop.
Growing Guide:Once seedlings appear or are planted, apply slug and snail bait around the plants. Make sure to water these plants well and apply liquid fertiliser every month. These plants can tolerate light frost.
Crop should be ready in two months from planting. The round varieties can be grown in a container.
Harvest:Harvest by using a fork to loosen the soil around the beetroot when lifting. Store in a cool and dark place. Leave stalks on the beetroot until you are ready to cook. Removing them will cause the beetroot to bleed its natural die – this make a huge mess.
How to use:All parts of the beetroot are edible. The leaves can be added to salads and stir-fries, while the beet itself is ideal for roasting, bottling and preserving. The juice from the beets can be used as a natural clothing dye.
Beetroot is a rich source of potent antioxidants and nutrients, including magnesium, sodium, potassium and vitamin C. Betanin, obtained from the roots, is used as a food colorant, in sauces, desserts, jams and jellies.