Beet It!

Most people only ever encounter their beetroots as washed, leafless and red, or even pickled in a jar. Grow them yourself and you will find they are among the most healthy and versatile of all garden vegetables.

Beetroot can be consumed hot or cold and juiced beetroot is just delicious. It is also extremely healthy, acting as a gentle detoxifier – which is probably what we all need as we wave goodbye to the season of excess.

The beetroot seed is actually one of the most popular seeds on the market at the moment, with the Boltardy variety the most popular. However there are other varieties that you should consider, such as Bulls Blood and Chioggia, with its concentric pale and dark pink rings.

Burpee’s Golden has lovely golden flesh and the magenta purple pronto is also really tasty.

Whichever variety you choose you can grow them all the same way. The simplest method is to scatter corky seeds in a shallow drill, then thin the seedlings to about 15cm apart and harvest them from golf ball size, upwards.

A word of warning, the soil must be warm, as beetroot will not germinate at temperatures below 7 degrees Celsius, which would mean waiting until April. If you have a greenhouse you can plant them much earlier, maybe late February. As the plants are under cover, plant out the clump when the roots hold well enough to be lifted without falling apart, but before it becomes root bound.

Of course, with anything raised under greenhouse protection, it is vital to harden them for a week or so before planting in your garden. Beetroot does best in rich but well drained soil, and in sunny spots, so bear this in mind when deciding on a location in your vegetable patch. Steady un-dramatic conditions are what this vegetable likes.

Yours should be ready for your first harvest within a few weeks of relocation – and don’t forget, the leaves are delicious too!

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