How to grow beetroot from seed March 06 2016

Beetroot pattern

Fresh beetroot is very easy to grow and has a long season. Rich in vitamin A and phytonutrients, it has a deliciously earthy taste. Very easy to grow in the right spot, beetroot even does okay in part-shade. Round, shorter varieties or baby beets are the best option for containers. 

Sowing seeds

Sow seeds outside in containers or into the ground. Soak the seeds in a bowl of water for an hour before sowing to help speed up germination.

In pots or containers
Use pots that are at least 30 cm wide and deep and have drainage holes in the bottom. Fill with compost almost to the top of the pot, sow seeds thinly across the surface and then cover with a little more compost. Water and position somewhere sunny.

Sow directly into the ground
Make a row about 2 cm deep in the soil. Sow seeds approx 5 cm apart along the row, cover with some fine soil, pat down firmly and gently water the row. Allow a spacing of 25 cm between further rows. Keep the soil moist.

Successional sowings can provide beetroots for months. Simply make a new sowing into rows or pots every few weeks.

Looking after

Beetroot seeds take a couple of weeks to germinate. Seedlings require thinning out so that there is enough space for the roots to grow.

Thin out seedlings
When the seedlings are 2 cm tall, start pulling out alternate plants along the row. This will make more room for those plants that remain. Aim for a gap of about 10 cm between plants.

Bolting
Beetroot can occasionally ‘bolt’ in very hot weather. This is when the plants go to seed and the roots become inedible. Detroit is a bolt-resistant variety but sow again if this happens.

Water when the soil becomes very dry. Don’t over-water.

Weed between rows with a hoe. Try not to damage the roots.

Protect crops with nets if birds pick at the leaves.

Harvesting

Start harvesting once the roots are visible just above the surface of the soil. Pull up baby beetroots when they are the size of golf balls, or leave until they’re tennis-ball size.

Eating
Twist off the leaf tops by hand, leaving about 5 cm of stalks on.

RAW    Peel into thin slices and serve with grated fresh horseradish and flat-leaf parsley.

BOIL    Boil for 20-60 minutes depending on size. Allow to cool and then rub off the skins.

BAKE    Drizzle in olive oil and roast in the oven for 45 minutes.

LEAVES    Young leaves are tasty in salads. Steam larger leaves as you would for spinach.

Storing
Beetroot will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

FREEZE    Boil then slice and pack into freezer bags.

PICKLE    Boil, slice and layer into a sterilised jar. Simmer red wine vinegar and sea salt in a pan then fill up the jar and seal it.

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