How to Grow Beetroot


Beetroot (beets) originated around the shores of the Mediterranean and was spread northwards into the rest of Europe by the Romans. Once the Romans reached northern and eastern Europe, the vegetable seems to have been taken to heart, and many of the recipes in use today come from these areas.

Beetroot (beets) is related closely to Swiss chard and shares its distinctive bright red coloration. This is not only manifest in the leaves and stems of the plant but also in the roots themselves, and when they are cut or bruised they exude a wonderfully deep red juice. When it is cooked, the flesh is still a very deep colour, even though it loses a lot of colour in the water if it is boiled (baking preserves it). Not everyone likes this coloration, because it has a tendency to stain not only other food, but lips and clothes as well.

How to Grow Beetroot  Grow Beetroot

However, although you never see them in greengrocers, there are also white and golden varieties, which are equally delicious but do not cause the staining. There are also a few fancy ones in which the roots are made, up of concentric rings of white and red flesh. The general shape is round or near round, but cylindrical or even tapered varieties are available.

The green or reddish-green leaves can also be eaten when they are young, either in salads or cooked.

Unlike parsnips and carrots, the bulk of the vegetable’s swollen root sits on top of the ground so that you can watch its progress and easily determine when it is ready to harvest.

Another aspect of choosing varieties is related to germination. Most seed is, in fact, made up of a cluster of seeds, which means that when they germinate they produce sev­eral seedlings close together. However, it you find that thinning these is fiddly, look out for monogerm varieties, which usually have the word “mono” somewhere in their name.

Cultivation

Beetroot needs an open, sunny position. They will grow in heavy soils, but do best in light ones. The soil should be fertile but not freshly manured. Use a plot that was manured for the previous crop or one into which manure was dug during the previous autumn, Sow directly into the open soil into shallow drills 1 cm deep and set 20cm apart. The seed should be station sown at 8cm intervals or sown thinly and thinned to that distance when they have germinated. Beetroot (beet) seed is slow to germinate but it can be speeded up by soaking for an hour in warm water before sowing. Seed can be sown in early spring, once the soil has warmed tip to 7°C/45°F, and successionally sown at two-week intervals until earl} summer. An earlier sowing can be made under cloches.

Keep beetroot (beet) weed free but avoid damaging them with a hoe. Keep them supplied with constant moisture. Avoid alternating dry and wet periods, or they may split.

Harvesting

Pull the young beetroot (beets) from the ground while they are still quite small. This will be about seven weeks after sow­ing. Continue to pull as required. You may need to use a fork to help ease later crops or those in heavy soils from the ground. If possible, do not break the thin root attached to the bottom of the globe, because this will “bleed”, causing the beetroot to lose a lot of its colour, for a similar reason do not cut oil the leaves; instead, twist them oil, leaving about 5cm on the beet.

Storage

Beetroot (beets) can be left in the ground until they are required, except in cold districts, where they can be lilted, cleaned and placed in trays of just-moist sand or peat (peat moss). Store these trays in a cool, frost-free shed or garage.

Pests and diseases

On the whole, beetroot (beets) are reason­ably trouble free in terms of possible pests and diseases, birds may eat the young seedlings when they first appear, so keep these off with netting of some sort. If any diseases occur, burn or destroy the affected plants and re-sow them elsewhere.

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About the Author: Greenery always attracts Arthur Kunkle. He has a big garden where he plants many fruits and vegetables. His passion for gardening motivates him to write and share different tips on gardening.

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