Beetroot Growing Guide
Many people have an aversion to beetroot because the only way they have ever tasted it is boiled to within an inch of its life and drowned in vinegar. We’re on a mission to change that. Fresh beetroot is a revelation. There are so many varieties of all hues, from the familiar red and purple, to gold, yellow and orange, and even candy-striped pink. Each tastes a little different and look beautiful. Beetroot are really easy to grow at home with little space or know-how and very little time.
Beetroot is really versatile. You can boil it as is traditional, or better yet bake it, grate it into salads, make chutneys, ketchup, wine and even cakes (check out HQ Homemade beetroot brownies). Try baking young, small (golf-ball sized) beets in the oven wrapped in tinfoil, they are a revelation.
Start off sowing the seeds into module trays. One seed per module (each 'seed' is actually a cluster of several seeds). After a month transplant outside into containers, raised beds or the ground. Sow each little pug plant about 2/3 cm deep, 10 cm apart, in rows about 30 cm apart. You get a lot of bang for your buck with beetroot and can grow loads in a small space.
Sow every two weeks from April to July for a constant supply of leaves for salads, stalks for stir fries and roots for loads of things.
Germination takes about 10 days and you will have beetroot to eat in about 3 months.
Bear in mind that a beetroot seed is actually a cluster of up to five seeds, so you need to “thin them out” if they all germinate. GROW HQ Head Grower, Richard, explains more about that in this week’s skills tutorial.
Keep the ground weed free by hoeing carefully. Young beets are sensitive to cold spells which is why we generally wait until April to sow. Protect young seedlings with fleece if it’s cold at night. Go easy on the watering, too much water encourages leaf growth at the expense of root formation.
Start to harvest when they are golf ball size, if left to grow too big they get woody and tasteless. Handle carefully, “twist” off the leaves a few centimetres above root or they will “bleed” if damaged.
Lift the last crop you sowed in July in October and they will store really well in sand or peat for up to 4 months.
Beetroot can be made into a wine that tastes similar to port.
Beetroot is a brilliant hangover cure (handy after that wine) because the pigment it contains is great to support the liver (Betacynine)
Beetroot also helps promote mental health and wellbeing, containing two substances (betaine and tryptophan) that support relaxation
Beetroot is naturally sweet and very high in a slow release sugar, so forget that bitter, vinegary mush from your childhood nightmares
Soak seeds in warm water for 20 mins before sowing to aid germination.
Beetroot doesn't like dry soil and it causes 'woody' roots (very unpleasant). Keep soil moist in dry weather and/or mulch to conserve moisture.