My first foray into beetroot growing has been something of an eye opener. Once I learned their preference to being planted straight into the ground and then left alone, they have been wonderfully simply to grow. They are quite strange little bumpy seeds from which several seedlings emerge, requiring careful thinning, to give each individual plant room to grow. From there it’s just a matter of watering and feeding every now and again and they quietly do their thing under the soil. In the chaos of planting out the rest of the garden, training the cucumbers and beans up their respective growing frames (or corn stalks), repairing or removing damage from the hail storm, spraying the zuccs for whitefly, cutting off leaves stuck down by powdering mildew and building up the potatoes, I pretty much forgot about the beetroots that I planted out earlier than the other vegetables. Then one day I noticed just how big they were getting and I have been picking them ever since.
I thought I’d share a few dishes that I have made from the bounty, given that I had never really cooked with them before and Mr Good was adamant in his dislike of the beet, claiming they tasted like dirt. Most of them have been used in salads including:
Recipe found here. I’ve also added blanched green beans to this salad, which added a crunch that was a very nice addition.
Based on a recipe from Stephanie Alexander’s Cook’s Companion this one was a simple mix of grated beetroot, grated carrot, shredded lettuce (it was supposed to be celery but I didn’t have any), walnuts (mine were crumbled walnuts) and a dressing of cider vinegar and honey. The dressing was a surprisingly nice combination with the slightly bitter taste of my lettuce.
And of course Liz’s Feta and Beetroot salad was another winner. Actually Liz has lots of other beetroot recipes that I must try with my next crop.
I’ve also used beetroot as a hot vegetable side dish, again consulting Stephanie’s bible for some ideas. The one I liked most was a very simple Buttered Grated Beetroot. Basically your grate 300g (or whatever you have or need) beetroot and put it in a saucepan with 40g butter, 1 tablespoon of water and 2 tablespoons of red-wine vinegar and cook with the lid on for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check that the beetroot is just cooked then turn the heat up to boil off any remaining liquid if necessary. Season with salt and pepper and serve. This would be great in winter when you want a warm and buttery addition to a meal.
My most ambitious venture with this vegetable was beetroot gnocchi. This was particularly messy, quite time consuming (why do I tackle these tasks when I’m at home with the kids on my own?) and I didn’t really have the best potatoes for gnocchi-making (not dry enough). Despite all this the meal was very tasty – though I wouldn’t describe them as fluffy clouds of potatoes – which I served with a simple parsley pesto and a little goats cheese stirred through. The recipe was loosely based on this one, though without the braised beef cheeks (perhaps I’ll give that a go if I have a winter crop of beetroots).
This dish wasn’t much to look at and Mr Good did think it was a little disconcerting eating something with similar colouring to raw meat, but it was enjoyable regardless of its shortcomings.
Finally, my plans is to pull the remaining beets out of the ground before we head off to the beach in a few days and turn them into another of Liz’s recipes, Beetroot and Date Chutney.
That will just about clear that bed (one less to have watered while we’re away) so I’ll be thinking hard about what to put in there next – how exciting. I had planted out a second crop after I started picking the first ones (inspired by Suzanne’s year round beetroot crop) but sadly these were lost in the Christmas day hail storm and I haven’t been planting given that we’ll be away for two weeks. I think I’ve decided to try something different in that bed when we get back, but I will definitely have to find a nice little spot for some moor beetroots.