Beetroot is high in antioxidants and nutrients, believed to be able to provide you with anti-cancer and heart-protection properties, as well as the liver and also helps in lowering blood pressure making it the vegetable that moms and dads should all be eating! Beetroot is easy to grow and this popular vegetable is making waves once again with the heirloom Beetroot Chioggia Guardsmark from MayFord.
In very early times, the medicinal properties of the root were more important than its eating qualities and it was used to treat a range of ailments including fevers, wounds and various skin problems. At that time, the roots were long and thin more like carrots. The rounded root shape that we are familiar with today was not developed until the sixteenth century and became widely popular around 200 years later.
There has been a lot of development in different varieties since then and there are now many different varieties available in SA. Growing them from seed is the most economical way to go giving you incredible value for money.
One of our favourites is the yellow beetroot - Touchstone Gold from MayFord Seeds. As a vibrant orange-red ball root on the exterior with a rich gold yellow centre. Combined with its striking light green, golden-veined tops to contrast and sweet, mild flavour, this beet is sure to catch your eye on the dinner plate. Very sweet, with a milder taste compared to red beets, Touchstone Gold will not stain in the way standard red beet does.
Available again after being missing for a few years we now have the Heirloom Beetroot Chioggia Guardsmark... now that’s a mouthful but it’s delicious! A candy striped variety that does not get too leafy and has a sweet mild taste. The advantage of this variety is that it grows year round and can be harvested quite quickly. The candy stripe is a white flesh with the purple rings. It gets its heirloom status from the fact that it’s been around in Italian gardens sine before 1841!
Simple tips to grow the best Beetroot
Where to grow Beetroot:
Beetroot prefer to be grown in moist, fertile soil in a sunny spot, but will also thrive in raised beds or pots. Sow seeds directly into the soil, no need to start off in trays.
Dig over the area and rake level. Adding BioOcean organic fertiliser to the bed before sowing will give your crop a boost.
Dig a 2cm-deep row in your bed and sow two seeds every 10cm. Cover over with soil and water well.
When the seedlings have grown to about 2cm in height remove those that are struggling so that the strongest can flourish.
For a continuous supply of beetroot, rather than a lot ready for harvest at once, you can continue to sow beetroot seeds throughout the summer.
Watering: Beetroot is Water Wise but with a bit extra they are juicier and have more flavour. Water them at least twice a week once established for the best results.
Feeding: Feed at planting and then again in about six weeks with BioOcean. Alternatively you can use Nitrosol every two weeks.
Harvesting: Depending on variety, beetroot is ready to be picked when the roots are between the size of a golf ball and a tennis ball - this is usually about 10 to 15 weeks after sowing. To harvest, hold the tops and lift while levering under the root with a hand fork. Remove the tops by twisting them off with your hands to prevent the plants bleeding their juice - don't throw the leaves away, they are very tasty too and can be cooked and eaten like spinach.
Container grown: Why not try growing a crop in a container. Besides the harvest the leaves look great and can be a focal point of you veggie garden or as a practical option in a courtyards. Use containers that are at least 30cm in diameter and 20cm deep. Add a layer of River Sand to the bottom of your container to assist with drainage. Only use potting soil to about 5cm below the top of the rim.
Sow the beetroot seeds thinly across the surface of the potting soil and then cover with another 3cm. Water the container well and then wait for the seedlings to appear.
Once the seedlings are about 2cm tall thin them out so that there is a gap of about 10cm between them.
With a harvest in three months it’s easier than you think to grow your own crunchy crop!