A Plain and Simple Guide to Growing Beetroots in Your Backyard
Beetroot Beta vulgaris var esculenta
A native of North Africa and West Asia, this crop is now widely distributed throughout the world. It is in great demand for salads although it can also be served hot. The roots should be used while young and tender before they become coarse and stringy.
A light deep soil is best for this crop, preferably one that was heavily manured with old compost or some other organic manure the previous season. A dusting of fish manure forked into the surface soil before seed is sown will do much good.
The earliest sowings of globe varieties can be made in late April or early May according to soil conditions, with further globe sowings until late June. Maincrop varieties should be sown during the last half of May.
Space the rows 38 cm (15 inches) apart and 2.5 cm (1 inch) deep. Each beetroot capsule is really a cluster of seeds so that sowing must be done very thinly.
If two capsules are dropped in at stations 15 cm (6 inches) apart they can finally be thinned to the strongest plant per station. The second thinnings will be large enough to use.
Weeds should be kept down by careful hoeing which also aerates the soil surface. When pulling or lifting the roots for use, twist off the tops of red or crimson varieties—do not cut them or they may ‘bleed’ and lose color.
Left in the ground too long, beetroot may be damaged by wet and frost, therefore lift and store early in November. Handle with care to avoid bruisings and store the roots in boxes of sandy soil or in clamps of small size to prevent heating.
Heaps 1.20-1.50 m (4—5 ft) high and 1.20 m (4 ft) wide are large enough. Provide a ventilation shaft of straw, or a drain pipe can be used to allow sufficient air to keep the roots firm. When dry, place the roots pointing inwards, in an orderly manner to form a compact heap.
Round or globe-shaped: ‘Beethoven’, ‘Boltardy’ and ‘Detroit’; intermediate or oval; ‘Formanova’: long; ‘Cheltenham Green Top’.
One of my favorite varieties is known as ‘Burpees Golden’ ‘Golden Beet’ produces globe-shaped roots with golden skin and yellow flesh. It does not ‘bleed’ and can be cooked in the usual way while the leaves can be served like spinach.
Some Vegetable Cultivation Tips and Advice
The health of a nation or individual is its greatest attribute and a knowledge of food values is of primary importance. Although on reflection it may seem obvious that we ought to eat foods that make us fit and keep us well, we do often ignore this fact.
Well documented experiments tell us that a very large proportion of a healthy diet should consist of fruit and vegetables, both raw and cooked. When cooking vegetables, more of the vitamin content will be retained if the cooking time is as brief as possible.
If boiling in water, use very little liquid; or better still, use a steamer. This has the added benefits of retaining food color and texture. To obtain the maximum value from ground used for vegetable growing, cultivate those crops most suited to the soil available.
Some vegetables are easier to grow than others but there should be no problems with beans, beetroot, carrots, cabbages, lettuce or peas. It is advisable to concentrate on crops which are expensive to buy, those which mature in autumn and winter and those which are scarce in the shops when required.
Successional sowings of many crops during spring and summer ensures a long harvesting period, while intercropping and catch cropping means that the ground is always fully occupied.
Vegetable gardening may seem less glamorous than growing colorful flowers but with the rapid increase in prices many gardeners are now growing their own vegetables to save money.
In so doing they are getting their vegetables fresher and provided varieties are selected carefully, they will enjoy the best in flavor and quality. There is a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction to be gained from growing your own vegetables well and trying out unusual species along with the old favorites.
The regular eating of salads in which green stuffs predominate will provide vitamins and valuable salts which are usually lost in cooking. All too often what are served up as salads are limp lettuce leaves, hard beetroot and tough skinned pieces of tomatoes.
There are literally dozens of other items which are easy to grow and which enliven any salad with color and taste. These we shall refer to in detail later but they include corn salad, endive, dandelion, beet tops, nasturtiums, Chinese mustard and asparagus peas.
Then there are many flowers which help to make salads more interesting: bergamot, calendula, rosemary and rose petals. Yellow and striped tomatoes also attract attention while the very small fruiting varieties of various shapes are a little out of the ordinary but certainly tasty.
From the small patch given over to the herb garden, there will always be supplies which can make so much difference to the taste and appearance of many dishes prepared in the kitchen.
It pays to buy seeds and plants from a reliable source and to depend on varieties known to be of high quality and yield.