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Brilliant Beetroot!

Are you looking for a truly versatile vegetable to grow and serve? Try beetroot! It has the most amazing colour and texture. Varieties range in colour from gold to deep red/purple and are delicious raw, boiled, baked, pickled and juiced. Even the leaves are edible! The root is packed with Vitamin C and the leaves are a great source of Vitamin A and potassium.

Beetroot is native to the Mediterranean so needs a fairly warm climate to do well. Unlike most of the plants we've discussed in the past, the seeds should be planted directly into the garden (or container) without going through the transplant stage.

Soak the seeds in water overnight to help germination, before planting. You should see your plants emerge in 10-14 days. Two or three plants will emerge from each of the seed clumps, but then you have to make a decision before thinning. Do you want to eat the leaves or the root?

If you pick the leaves often, the root will develop poorly. Some sort of trade off has to be made. Even so, small beets are better than no beets at all.

Vegetables do best when they grow quickly and beets are no exception. Feed them every couple of weeks with a good water soluble plant food. They should be ready to harvest in 8-12 weeks.

Preparing Beetroot

  • When boiling beetroot (in salted water), always leave the skin on. Otherwise the colour will run. Allow to cool, peel, then cut to size.
  • Wrap in foil and bake, just like a potato. Then serve it with sour cream and chives.
  • Juice it raw with carrots and celery
  • Whip up some Russian Borscht. Again, the sour cream and beetroot combo is excellent.
  • Cut it up into a salad. Some herbs that really get along with it include dill, caraway, rocket and chicory.
  • Pickle it and use it to add zing to your salad sandwiches. I LOVE this.
  • One small sidetrack...you may want to use disposable gloves when handling before a dinner party...it can stain your fingers for a day or two...
  • Want a different sort of dip for a starter? Try this one...the colour is WILD!

    Spicy Beetroot Dip

    4 medium beetroot 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 2 pita bread 250ml natural yoghurt 2 cloves garlic crushed 2 tablespoons lemon juice 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander 1/2 teaspoon paprika 1/4 teaspoon chilli powder (optional) Salt to taste

    Preheat oven to 180C. Peel beetroot and cut into 1" cubes. Coat the beetroot with olive oil by tossing in a bowl. Spread cubes on an oven tray and cook until soft, about 30 minutes. Remove and let cool.

    Once beetroot is cooked and removed, turn the oven up to 200C. Cut the pita bread into dipping pieces, either triangles or strips. Spread them out on a baking tray and bake for 10 minutes, or until crisp.

    Place the cool beetroot with all other dip ingredients in a blender and puree. Display your spicy purple dip in a bowl surrounded by crispy dipping pita strips.

    Judy Williams (http://www.no-dig-vegetablegarden.com) aspires to become a fulltime earth mother goddess. This site acts as a primer for all vegetable gardening aspects covering topics like how to build a garden, nurture seedlings, container gardening and composting.

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