The beginning of August marks the beginning of our beetroot harvest. 

We have grown to love beetroot in many forms, driven partly by beginner’s ignorance in our first year which led to more beets than we knew what to do with.  The teenager likes them best roasted and eaten with brown bread, balsamic vinegar and feta.  My husband’s favourite is beetroot chocolate cake.  Roasted beetroots freeze particularly well, but I also pickle a big jar’s worth, so that we can eat them in May as soon as salad weather starts.

We have tried growing a few varieties and by the far the best suited to our garden is Armenian beetroot, a dark red heritage variety from the Heritage Seed Library.  I was hoping to grow golden beetroot this year in place of carrots, but made the mistake of planting the seeds in one of our stonier beds that could have done with more compost.   The sole surviving golden beet is growing in majestic isolation.   We also tried Avon Early this year, which fared almost as well as the Armenian.  It has tender stripy stalks that cook well as a vegetable in their own right.  However I don’t think they were any earlier than the Armenian variety.  

My preference is always to sow seed direct – I haven’t really got the hang of seedlings and planting out – and I like the fact that beetroot seedings are easily distinguishable from weed seedlings.  The seeds themselves are large, rough polygons, which makes them easy to distribute evenly along the row.   In the early years I planted quite close together and thinned.  However seed is at a premium, so I have been planting them further and further apart.  This year’s may have been a bit far apart – about 15 cm – but it has enabled me to raise large beets.  Perhaps next year I will plant them closer again.

No pests or diseases to speak of.  I suppose it’s only a matter of time…..

In other news, the artichokes have finished and I’m about to cut down the old leaves and stalks.  Each plant has already started sprouting again at the base.  I’ve also cut down the spent broad beans.  Some of them will grow again for a small late crop.  I had already interplanted with dwarf beans, which have just started cropping, and I’ve just planted fennel seeds there too.  They will start growing next month for an autumn crop.   With luck I’ve also got some late peas on the way where the onions used to be. 

Text and Images (C) Claire @theslowfix A slow food devotee, Claire is constantly searching for new ways to enable us all to live sustainably.

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