9 tips for growing beetroot plus 3 easy beetroot recipes
Easy to grow and delicious, beetroot are a versatile vegetable in the kitchen.
By Jenny Somervell
Bought beetroot should be firm, smooth and a vibrant red-purple (not soft, wrinkled or dull in colour). Remove the tops and the roots will keep for several weeks in a cupboard or several months in the crisper bin of the fridge.
Wash under running water and brush with a soft brush, being careful not to tear the skin as this tough outer layer helps to keep the pigments inside the beetroot.
When boiling beetroot, leave root ends on and an inch of stem attached. Boil small roots for about 20 minutes, and larger ones for 45 minutes. Peel when cool by slipping the skin off with your fingers but use gloves if you want to avoid red hands.
9 TIPS TO GROWING BEETROOT
1. Beetroot is a quick and prolific grower and if sown sequentially from September to March it will yield a continuous supply.
2. In the South Island final sowings are best in January or February. In milder areas seeds can be sown virtually year-round, making it a good winter crop. Cold temperatures followed by warm temperatures, can result in premature bolting producing fibrous inedible roots.
3. Beetroot is sensitive to soil acidity and on most New Zealand soils a little lime is beneficial, but not too much. Lime and fertiliser should be applied several weeks prior to sowing.
4. Beets don’t like fresh organic material like manure – it can cause splitting and misshapen roots. A soil that has been manured for a previous leafy crop is ideal.
5. Beetroot seed is actually a cluster of seeds, botanically a ‘fruit’ in a cork-like case.
6. Sow seed in full sun in drills 2cm deep, 30cm apart, and keep evenly moist as seeds need high moisture for germination, which may take 12-14 days.
7. Thin plants as early as they can be handled to 7-10 cm apart. I thin plants in stages, eating the early thinnings in salads and later thinnings as tender ‘baby’ beets. I also transplant the smaller thinnings, although they do suffer a check in growth.
8. Start harvesting alternate plants when they are about golf ball size allowing the remaining beets more room to grow. Generally 55-65 days are needed from germination to full size roots.
9. Don’t let them grow over size – less than 7.5 cm diameter is best otherwise they get tough.
5 FAVOURITE BEETROOT VARIETIES:
Bull’s Blood This American heirloom has deep red leaves even under low light, with colour intensifying as they age. The leaves make a bright addition to salads and can be harvested from 35 days. The roots, harvested at 60 days, have candy striping when sliced.
Chioggia Red/White, a very sweet beet with smooth red skin and distinctive, concentric rings of red and white flesh. Harvest at 6cm. From the Adriatic coast near Chioggia, Italy.
Golden Globe, this beet has a golden interior and does not bleed like others. The tops have a spinach-like flavour. However you need lots of seed – the germination rate is very poor.
Cylindra Heirloom variety with long cylindrical roots better in deeper soils. Excellent for slicing and a very good keeper.
Detroit Dark Red Cylindrical variety which forms just under the soil surface so more suited to shallow soils.
Beetroot Red Velvet Cake
2 medium beetroot, cooked & peeled
½ cup orange juice
1½ cups softened butter
1½ cups brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
Roughly chop the beetroot and process to a smooth paste with the orange juice in a food processor or liquidiser.
Cream butter and sugar, add the vanilla extract and beetroot paste. Sift in the flour, salt and baking powder and mix well. Pour into a greased and floured cake tin and cook at 160°C until cooked, about 50 minutes.
Ken’s tip: for a more spicy cake, add ¼ tsp freshly ground nutmeg.
4 beetroot, cooked & peeled
1 dessertspoon sherry
1 dessertspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tbsp honey
salt & pepper
250g puff pastry
50g feta cheese
Thickly slice beetroot. Melt butter in an oven-proof pan over low heat, then add sugar and sherry with a pinch of salt.
Stir continually until it caramelises, turning mahogany brown. Remove from the heat and stir in the honey and thyme leaves. Arrange the sliced beetroot in the pan in a decorative pattern, using all the beetroot. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Roll out the pastry and lay it on top of the beetroot, pushing the edges down the inside of the pan. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180°C until the pastry is golden, about 30 minutes.
Remove from oven and place a large plate on top of pan. Up-end pan and place tart onto the plate – leave the pan in place for a minute to allow all the caramel to drip from it before removing it. Dot with chunks of feta and serve in slices. Yummy warm or cold.
Beetroot and Horseradish Dip
2 medium beetroot, cooked & peeled
¼ cup roughly chopped fresh horseradish, washed & peeled
3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp sour cream
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
Black pepper to taste
Purèe the beetroot, horseradish and garlic in a food processer with the sour cream and just enough oil to make a smooth paste.
Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Chill in fridge before serving with chips or crackers.
Katherine’s Raw and Very Healthy Beetroot Salad
3-4 small/medium beetroot
½ large apple
10 leaves of mint
3 stalks of parsley
2 tbsp olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
salt and freshly ground pepper
Mix together and leave for 30 minutes to allow the flavours to develop. Delicious!
7 OTHER WAYS TO USE BEETROOT
1. Grate beetroot to eat raw in salads.
2. Roast beets to enhance their sweetness and top with goat cheese – bake in tin foil 180°C for about 45 minutes.
3. Add to smoothies, soups or main dishes.
4. Steam the nutrient-rich greens like Swiss chard.
5. Stir fry with summer vegetables, garlic and bacon and toss with chunks of feta cheese.
6. Pair with strong, salty foods like smoked fish, feta cheese, and capers.
7. Marinate in lemon juice, herbs and olive oil.