Beetroot is a root vegetable meaning that the part that we eat is the deep red root that grows under the ground. The dark green leaves are quite attractive with their purple spine and veins and are also edible although the younger ones are the most tender.
The red colour in beetroot is a compound called betanin which is very good for the body but it does stain your fingers unless you wear gloves. After eating beetroot, your urine may even turn pink but this is only temporary and isn’t a problem at all.
Choose a spot in the garden that gets at least 6 hours of sun every day and prepare the garden bed by removing any weeds as well as stones and rocks. Dig some compost through the topsoil and gently water the ground as well as the seedlings.
Use a dibbler or thick stick to make holes in the ground for the seedlings about 20cm apart. Carefully remove the seedlings from their punnet and place the root ball in the hole and gently push the soil around it.
As soon as the seedlings are planted, cover the ground with mulch such as pea straw and give them a light water.
Beetroot seedlings can also be planted into very large containers that are at least 25cm tall. Fill them with premium potting mix and plant the seedlings about 15cm apart. Make sure the pot is in full sun so that it gets at least 6 hours of direct sunlight.
CARE AND MAINTENANCE
Keep the soil just moist by watering every day in summer or every second day in cooler months so that the beet doesn’t become woody. Apply liquid fertiliser every two weeks.
As the beetroot grows, its crown will start to push its way above the soil so it is really easy to see what size it is. Don’t be tempted to cover this with soil though as this might cause it to rot. Instead, just watch it until it gets to the size that you want which will be around 6 to 8cm across. To harvest the beetroot, pull the whole thing out of the ground and cut off the leaves keeping about 3cm of the stalks attached. Brush the dirt off and store in the fridge.
The youngest leaves of beetroot are also edible and can be cut off every few days but always leave the larger ones on so that the plant can keep growing. Wash the leaves and store them in a plastic bag in the fridge.
HOW TO EAT
Home grown beetroot that has been baked in the oven is delicious! Simply wrap the unpeeled beetroot in foil and bake it at 180C for an hour. Remove it from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes then use the foil to scrape off the skin. Serve cold in salads and sandwiches or hot as a vegetable.
The young leaves of beetroot are also great to eat and can be washed and tossed through a salad. They add a nice splash of colour to any leafy salad.
For other great recipes, visit the Smarty Plants Kitchen.
HOW THEY GROW
The part of the beetroot that we eat is the root that grows under the ground. It has thin, feeder roots attached to it that grow into the soil to take up the nutrients and water that it needs. Green leaves grow on red stems above the ground in a bunch. As the beetroot matures, it starts to poke up above the soil.
Botanical Name: Beta vulgaris
Life Cycle: Annual
When to Grow: All year round
Height/Width: The leaves that are above the ground will grow to about 30cm high and 20cm wide but the root that grows under the ground will be around 6 to 8cm wide and long.
Requirements: Plant in full sun and water every day or two depending on whether it has rained. Don’t let the soil dry out. Apply a liquid fertiliser every fortnight.
Nutritional Benefits: Beetroot is a superfood because it is high in antioxidants!