If your only experience of beetroot is in salads with vinegar, then a beetroot glut on your allotment is a good reason to try some of the other delicious ways you can serve up this amazing vegetable, and it can be available right through the summer and from January into the early new year.
Beetroot is definitely in the ‘superfood’ category because it is jam-packed with iron, potassium, magnesium, folic acid, vitamins A, C and B6, as well as anti-oxidants. So for people with high blood pressure, jagged nerves or anemia, it’s a great food to eat regularly. Also some athletes use beetroot juice to improve their endurance.
It’s an easy root vegetable to grow, ideal for newcomers to gardening, and one to have if you’re aiming to become self-reliant on what you grow. You can sow them as early as late February (with some protection) through to July, depending on varieties, and harvest June through to October, with some types suitable for winter storage sown June onwards.
Sow in open fertile ground, thin out young ones as baby beet which are sweet, or leave to mature.
Tip for handling beetroot
Use freshly picked if you can, but beets will keep for several weeks in cool dark conditions. Fresh beetroot is firm to the touch and gets softer with age
Ways to prepare and cook beetroot
- Don’t cut the stalks off after picking. When you come to cooking whole beetroot, leave an inch (2.5cm) of stalk on the beet as well as the end of the root – trimming too much makes the colour bleed when it’s cooking
- With fresh beetroot, leave the skin on – just scrub off the soil with a brush or abrasive before preparing raw or cooked beetroot.
Simmer for around an hour (depending on size) – test like potatoes, a skewer should go in and out easily when it’s done.
Then you can eat hot as a side-dish (add olive oil or butter) or cold as in salads, or pickled in vinegar
Preparation as above. Bake in a low oven, either wrapped in foil or in a little water in a lidded casserole dish. It should be ready in 2-3 hours, depending on size. For additional flavour, try baking in olive oil with some cumin seeds, then add some feta cheese for the final 10 minutes.
Small beetroots can be added to your roasting tin with meat or chicken, or to a tray of mixed veggies, with your oil of choice. Walnut oil and chives complement beetroot well.
If you have a juicer or liquidiser, you can make all sorts of drinks with beetroot as a base – try it out with carrot or cucumber first and then, if you like it, experiment. People with a sweet tooth should add in a fruit such as apple or pineapple (or juice from these fruits) – or sweeten it with sugar if you haven’t got a suitable fruit available.
Warning: Take care in how much beetroot juice you drink at once because it is very potent. It’s advisable to dilute fresh beetroot juice with juices from other veggies such as carrot, cucumber, or celery – 4 times as much of one or more of these as beetroot juice. Also bear in mind that your urine may turn pink or red after drinking the juice – it’s quite harmless.
Beetroot and Cucumber Juice
1 small fresh beetroot
Small cucumber, or half a large one
Optional for sweeter flavour: 1 cup of pineapple chunks or 1-2 tablespoons of sugar
- Clean the beetroot thoroughly and cut off the stalk and thin root end If the skin is tough, peel it.
- Wash the cucumber and peel if it’s a waxed bought one or the skin is too tough or not to your liking
- Cut up the beetroot and cucumber into slices or chunks
- and put them into the juicer or liquidiser with the pineapple chunks (if used) and cold water to dilute if not.
- Juice the lot, adding more water if required to give a drinking consistency.
- Add sugar to taste if needed and serve – with ice cubes is great in hot weather.
- 1 small beetroot, 2 large carrots, 1 whole stalk of celery
- As one, but add an apple for a sweeter drink OR replace the carrots with 2 apples
- As 1 but increase the amount of celery for a saltier drink
- For a drink extra rich in beta carotene, include some of the green beetroot tops (just a few because of the strong flavour and they can form kidney stones if taken in excess)
- Fruit and veggie drink: 1 beetroot, 1 cucumber, 2 sticks of celery, 3 carrots, 1 apple – plus a bit of root ginger if you’ve got some.