Beetroots contain folic acid, fibre, potassium and manganese, whilst the leaves also have calcium, iron as well as vitamins A and C. Traditionally they were used medicinally for blood and intestinal disorders. They are great roasted, boiled, fried as chips, juiced or raw in salads, writes Fi Doran, our Cafe Manager and Paul Richens, our Gardens Manager.
Vegetable Origins & Varieties
Beetroot: Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris. Chenopodiaceae
This very ancient root vegetable has been grown since Assyrian times and was highly esteemed by the early Greeks and Romans. It is a form of the maritime sea beet that over the centuries has been selected for its root. It appears in fourteenth-century English recipes so we’ve been enjoying it for a long time. Today we mainly grow the red globe varieties but there are also cylindrical shaped ones and a range of different flesh colours such as yellow and one with a remarkably bull-eye pattern when cut. We grow them in the Skip garden both for the root and the young leaves that if harvested early add wonderful colour to any salad.
Growing tips & Harvesting
Beetroot seeds germinate at temperatures over 7.0 degrees C so make sure the soil is warm before sowing. Enrich the soil with humus (compost). Sow successively every two weeks, from the first spring sowing, for a continuous supply. Beetroot take between 60-90 days to mature but these days the fashion is to harvest them when they’re smaller. When harvesting never cut the leaves off as the cuts will ‘bleed’ - always twist the leaves off.
Beetroot are usually remarkably free from pest and diseases although can fall to mildew so keep them stress free by watering regularly during dry periods.
Storing & Preparation
Beetroots stored in the fridge with their green tops intact remain in good condition for a few weeks, though reduce this time if the leaves have been removed.
When roasting, boiling or steaming beetroots leave the bottom and an inch of the tops intact to stop the vegetable from bleeding, just give them a good scrub with a vegetable brush first. Once cooled the skin is easy to remove. They can also be peeled and thinly sliced or grated to be eaten raw in salads.
My favourite Recipes
100g cocoa powder
1tsp baking powder
240ml vegetable oil
1 1/2tsp vanilla extract
1 medium beetroot, grated
Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl then add the water, oil, vanilla and beetroot. Mix well then pour into a lined baking tray (23 x 33cm) and bake at 180degreesC for 20-25minutes.
Scandinavian Beetroot and apple cube salad with homemade mayonnaise and herbs
Rubbing lemon juice on beetroot stained hands can help remove the red colour. More recently beetroot has been thought to aid exercise performance, help lower blood pressure and slow down dementia so no wonder it now features in many health juices and smoothies!