Beetroot

Beetroot ready to harvest

At one time beetroot (beta vulgaris) was considered a difficult crop to grow but with modern 'bolt-resistant' varieties, it is now much easier, producing good consistent results with minimum effort.

The roots keep well, so they can easily be available all year round, either picked fresh during the summer or from stored or pickled supplies.

How to Cook >> Popular Varieties

Growing Conditions

Soil Type: Light, well cultivated, non-acid soil.

Conditions: Full sun.

Ease of Cultivation: Easy.

Type: Root Vegetable.

When to Sow: April to July.

Harvest: May onwards (8-14 weeks after sowing).

Planting and Growing Beetroot

Preparation

Add plenty of humus and organic matter to the soil for best results and sweeten acid soils by liming. Do not add manure before sowing but follow a crop that was manured in the previous season.

Short-rooted varieties can be sown if the soil is heavy, poor or too shallow for long-rooted varieties.

When to Sow

Beetroot seeds tend to come in clusters, so thinning is usually necessary unless you can get hold of pelleted (monogerm) seed. When using monogerm seed, it is a good idea to presoak the seeds for around 30 minutes before sowing, which softens the coating.

Early sowings can be problematic, often running to seed. So for an easy, trouble free crop, sow from mid-March in the south and April to July in the north, depending on variety.

Direct sow, in warm well prepared soil. Sow seeds thinly, 1in (25cm) deep, in rows 12-15in (30-38cm) apart. Firm the soil after sowing. Thin young plants to 6-9in (15-23cm) apart, depending on variety and size.

Unless you are growing a large crop for pickling or storage, it is better to sow beetroot in short rows at weekly or fortnightly intervals, to ensure a steady supply for the kitchen. A 10ft (3m) row will produce approximately 10lb (4.5kg) of globe or 18lb (8kg) of long rooted beetroot.

Taking Care of Beetroot

Keep weed free but take care when hoeing to avoid damaging the roots. Water regularly. Beetroot needs a steady supply of water to prevent cracked and woody roots.

Pests and Diseases

Generally trouble free but aphids may be a problem. Protect young seedlings from birds with netting or bird scarers.

Harvesting & Storing Beetroot

Harvest when the roots are large enough for use, around 8-14 weeks after sowing. Pick globe varieties before they reach 4in (10cm) in diameter. Lift all roots before the middle of October.

Twist off the leaves to prevent bleeding. The roots can be dried and packed away in dry sand. Alternatively they can be wrapped individually in dry newspaper. Store in a cool frost-proof place. Check stores regularly and discard any rotten roots.

How to Cook Beetroot

Cooked beetroot is delicious when eaten hot or cold. The root should be boiled in its skin and then peeled before eating. It can also be roasted or baked. Young beetroot leaves can also be used as a colourful addition to salads. The mature leaves can be cooked and eaten like spinach.

To boil: twist off the stalks 1-2in (3-5cm) above the base. Wash carefully to avoid damaging the skin to prevent bleeding. Place unpeeled into a saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Cook for 1-2 hours, depending on size. Testing to see if they are tender with a skewer. After cooking, cool and remove the skin. Slice and serve in salads. Cold cooked beetroot can be pickled in jars of vinegar.

Nutritional Value

The roots are high in essential nutrients and a good source of fiber, folate (vitamin B9), manganese, potassium, iron and vitamin C. The young leaves are also high in vitamins.

Popular Varieties of Beetroot

Traditional varieties have a deep red colour but yellow, white and ringed varieties are also available. Average height 12in (30cm), spread 6in (15cm). There are two main types.

  • Globe (round, short rooted).
  • Oval (cylindrical, long rooted).

Long-rooted cylindrical varieties store well and are easier to cook. They need a deep sandy soil to grow well but will produce a better yield from a smaller area.

Beetroot 'Action' an early harvesting variety with smooth, firm roots of deep-red flesh. Ideal for storing. Available at Van Meuwen.

Beetroot 'Albina Vereduna' a popular white globe beetroot with an excellent flavour. No smudging or bleeding. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Beetroot 'Alto' an easy to grow, smooth skinned, long rooted variety with a sweet flavour. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Beetroot 'Boldor' a fine golden beet with good vigour and root uniformity. The roots are deliciously sweet and the young leaves can be eaten raw, steamed or stir fried. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Beetroot 'Boltardy' as the name suggests this globe beet has good resistance to bolting. Ideal for early spring sowings. The round smooth, deep red, crisp roots have a sweet fresh flavour. Available at Van Meuwen, Gardening Direct and Thompson & Morgan.

Beetroot 'Burpees Golden' is a sweet-tasting orange-skinned, yellow fleshed beetroot, with an excellent flavour. Ideal for mixing with the purple forms in a salad. No bleeding.

Beetroot Cheltenham Green Top is a monogerm type that is easy to space when sowing. A popular long rooted variety with deep pink flesh.

Beetroot 'Chioggia' a sweet tender globe root with rings of red and white on the inside, which fade to soft pink when cooked. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Beetroot 'Detroit 2 Crimson Globe' an easy to grow fine globe beet with rich maroon colouring. Ideal for successional sowing, achieving a longer harvesting period. Available at Van Meuwen and Thompson & Morgan.

Beetroot 'Kestrel' a smooth, globe beet with dark red roots. Delicious cooked or eaten raw. Good resistance to bolting. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Beetroot 'Moneta' a high yield globe variety that is very easy to grow, with no thinning necessary. The beets are smooth with deep-red skin and flesh. Ideal for salads. Available at Van Meuwen and Thompson & Morgan.

Beetroot 'Monopoly' a monogerm globe variety with dark red flesh. Easy to grow.

Beetroot 'Morello' a fast maturing variety with rounded, purple roots. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Beetroot 'Pablo' a smooth-skinned, round rooted beet with dark red skin and flesh. Excellent as baby beets. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Beetroot Perfect 3 a globe beet with great tasting, deep red flesh. Good for harvesting as young beets or left to mature as a maincrop.

Beetroot 'Red Ace' a maincrop globe type with a good dark red colour. Drought tolerant. Good for exhibition growing. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Beetroot 'Rubidus' a bolt resistant globe variety with firm, smooth, deep red flesh. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Beetroot 'Wodan' an excellent quality globe type with bright red fleshed roots that don't go woody. Good as either baby beet or as larger roots. The young leaves can also be used as an alternative to spinach. Excellent for pickling. Available at Van Meuwen.

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