WHICH BEETROOT TO GROW?
It's the end of our second week back at work after the Christmas break and all the Kings Seeds staff are back from holiday now.
We've finished comparing notes on what we did doing the holidays (mostly watched the rain fall!), so lunch room conversation has now shifted to how our gardens are growing. Jen harvested her first cherry tomatoes back in November (!!???) but most of us are just starting to enjoy our first tomatoes now. In our home garden, we have picked the first of our Sub Arctic Plenty tomatoes. We grow them in pots every year and they are always the first to produce ripe fruit. The first few of my son's Lady Bug tomatoes have ripened - delicious!
Gardening at home before Christmas was hectic and hurried. Everything went to seed just when we were frantically trying to get ready for Christmas, and since we were planning to go away on Boxing Day the question was: do we try to get some gardening done before Christmas or give up on it and deal with it when we returned? We just couldn't bear the thought of coming back to an overgrown jungle, so Christmas Eve saw some frantic gardening action - out with everything that was reaching for the sky - all the four-foot-tall lettuces and knee-high gone-to-seed salad greens came out and the salad garden was hurriedly resown before we went away. When we came back we had some baby mesclun to enjoy so I am very glad we did it. The peas had finished, so out they came to make room for some beans, and we harvested all the potatoes and sowed some more rows of carrots.
Lurking in corners of the herb garden I found quite a lot of beetroot. I vaguely remember sowing them back in Spring. Beetroot is becoming popular again....besides in being rich in vitamins and fibre it can be used for juicing, eaten raw in salads, pickled, roasted and added to dips. You can also pick the young leaves and eat them as a salad green, and of course it is also becoming popular as a microgreen.
Beetroot have a very long growing season in New Zealand. They can be sown from early Spring right through until late Autumn - they don't grow well in the cold but are otherwise easy to grow. They will tolerate a light frost. Sow the seeds at a depth approximately three times the diameter of the seeds - they are best sown when soil temperatures are between 7°C and 25°C. Since Beetroot seed comes as a cluster of several seeds, you will need to thin your plants so that each plant can grow to an edible size. If you aren't good at remembering to thin your seedlings, you could try sowing Beetroot Kestral, which has a monogerm seed rather than a cluster and will therefore produce a single seedling. Space plants 20 - 30 cm apart, and keep them well-watered. If they get dry they will develop a woody, inedible core. Beetroot will be ready for harvest in 55 - 70 days but will keep in ground for longer. You can harvest them when just small for tender baby beetroot.
I was given a recipe for preserved beetroot and it is great. I've been guarding my piece of paper with the recipe very carefully but just the other day I discovered it was identical to the recipe for Beetroot in the good old Edmonds Cookbook. For those few kiwis who don't have a copy, here is the recipe:
- 3 medium beetroot, trimmed and washed
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 Cup boiling water
- 3/4 Cup malt vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- black pepper
Put the beetroot in a large saucepan, and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and cook for 45 minutes or until tender. Drain, then rinse under cold running water. Top and tail then slip the skins off. Slice and place in serving dish. Dissolve sugar in boiling water, add vinegar, salt and pepper. Pour over sliced beetroot and serve cold. This is also nice when bottled in sterilised jars.
I found a wonderful tutorial at Gourmet Getaways for making Preserved Beetroot with Red Onion, with lots of lovely pictures - click here for a link to the tutorial and click here for a recipe for Beetroot crust quiche.
There are still more beetroot to come, so I am looking forward to roasting some beetroot with balsamic vinegar!
Well, that's all from me this week - may the sun shine on your gardens this week, unless you live in Otago and would prefer a bit of shade!