“Earth is here so kind, that just tickle her with a hoe and she laughs with a harvest.” ~Douglas William Jerrold, about Australia, A Land of Plenty
I love Beetroot.
So if you have landed here in pursuit of some even-handed commentary on the Beetroot, let me inform you that I will be lavishly biased in favour of this fantastic vegetable.
Beetroot just offers so much, and asks so little.
It is ridiculously easy to cultivate. I soak the little seed clusters in warm water before separating the seeds, direct sowing them in a bit of moistened earth. I’m a bit mean with my sowings, because I hate to thin seedlings. Space them 30cm apart and they will have plenty of room to grow.
I sow my Beetroot where I have previously planted my Broccoli, Cabbages, Beans or Peas. Don’t plant them with Asparagus or Corn, they won’t get along. Some guides say to keep them away from Carrots and Spinach, but I planted mine in a bed with with both and they all thrived.
Beetroot will grow almost year round in my part of the world, however, I don’t plant it over the summer as the dryness makes the beetroots woody and fibrous. I favour the Cylindria variety, which grows in more of a torpedo shape rather than the typical ball. This last Saturday, two linear metres of Beetroot sowings yielded over three kilos of good, healthy Beetroot.
You can also harvest the young tender leaves of the Beetroot, they are delicious in salads. Although, harvest too much, too frequently and the root development will suffer. The leaves taste like a cross between Spinach and Beetroot, not bitter at all. I love them in a simple salad with fetta, walnuts and a touch of balsamic with olive oil. Delicious.
Fresh Beetroot is also tasty mixed with raw juices (especially Apple and Carrot) or just grated into salads. I make a salad with raw Beetroot, Purple Cabbage, Green Apple dressed with Wholegrain Mustard, Apple Cider Vinegar and Avocado oil. It’s sweet, earthy and (dare I say it?) revoltingly good for you.
Beetroot and Chocolate Mudcake is to die for. The Beetroot keeps the cake moist, adding a complimentary earthyness to the chocolate sweetness. Having Beetroot in your Chocolate Cake also qualifies you for a guilt free second slice (because vegetables are so good for you!)
If you have any experience at all with Beetroot, even just out of a tin, you know it leaves everything it touches an attractive shade of magenta. So when preparing it to eat, you might want to wear some protection (I’m talking about latex gloves) otherwise people will wonder why you have taken to rouge-ing your hands.
But my first-day-of-spring Beetroot harvest is destined for Beetroot Relish, so I can enjoy the flavour of Beetroot all year round. Coming into the warmer weather, this relish is great in a burger, a ploughman’s picnic or as a condiment to compliment barbecued meats.
First, I roasted my Beetroot whole and unpeeled. I spread them on a tray in an even-ish layer and just put them straight in, no oil or foil.
The larger beetroot took about an hour to roast through, and my three kilos took a few batches in the oven until they were all done. When cooked, I placed them into a large bowl, covered with foil to steam, then refrigerated them.
Two days later, as hail, rain and wind ravaged the garden, I was in the kitchen, preparing to make the relish, perfect preserving weather!
My three kilos of Beetroot equalled just over a kilo when peeled (wear protection!) The roasting intensifies the flavour and colour of the Beetroot, and I think it gives a superior relish result preparing it this way, rather than boiling or steaming it.
As I chopped the Beetroot into a smallish dice, I simmered 600ml of Apple Cider Vinegar with one Star Anise, a Bay leaf and a heaped teaspoon each of whole Cumin, Peppercorns and Chilli flakes in my large enamel crock with the lid on. My recipe also called for a few chopped Shallots, but I instead substituted about 5 chopped white Spring Onion stalks. Spring Onions grow like weeds in my veggie patch!
After about 10 minutes of simmering the vinegar mix, I pulled out the Star Anise (to prevent the whole batch tasting like licorice) and added 450g of raw sugar and the chopped Beetroot to the pot. Then bring the pot to a rolling boil for 5 minutes. Then reduce the heat to a low simmer for 45 minutes. Keep an eye on your relish, you dont want it boiling over or sticking to the bottom. An occasional stir will take care of that.
When done, it should be fragrant, glossy, jewel-like and almost irrestistable.
Spoon the hot relish into prepared, sterilised jars and set aside in a pantry for a month to let the flavours blend.
I could not wait that long. It was tasty straight from the pot!
This season, I am getting a little more adventurous. I have Burpee’s Golden, Sugarbeet, Mini Beetroot and of course, my favourite Cylindria variety destined for the dirt.
What’s your favourite Beetroot? Any recommendations?