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Dublin: 12 °C Friday 28 February, 2020
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Gardening: Pick your beetroot early for summer salads and slaws

We’ve been enjoying the first batch of fresh beetroot from the veg patch, writes Michael Kelly.

Michael Kelly Grower

WE’VE BEEN ENJOYING the first consistent supply of fresh beetroot from the veg patch over the last week.

I do three sowings of beets each year to try and get a year-round supply of this wonderful vegetable. The final sowing, generally done in late June or early July, is the storage crop which will be harvested in late September or October and stored in a box of sand in the garage.

Generally speaking these will store for 4-5 months. I will be doing that final sowing in a module tray in the coming week.

The fresh ones from the garden are a little small still, but that’s pretty much the perfect size for them. Just a little bigger than a golf ball is about right. Any bigger and they get somewhat woody.

My favourite method of cooking beetroot is in a tinfoil parcel, with the skins on. This way you retain all the nutrition inside, rather than boiling it out of them as you do when cooking them in water. When beetroot are really fresh, the skins will rub off under a cold tap after cooking.

In previous years I would generally add some balsamic and olive oil to them (and maybe some goats or blue cheese), but I like them better “naked” these days so I can really savour the earthy flavour. At this time of the year, when they are young and tender they taste truly exquisite.

The beauty of beetroot is their versatility

shutterstock_455273905 Source: Shutterstock/Yakimova Elena

In addition to cooking them, you can also eat them raw, grated for a slaw. Or you can make them in to ketchup like our chef does at GROW HQ (when we don’t have any tomatoes).

Don’t forget the stems are also edible too. You can chop them up and saute them slowly with some red onions for a quick and easy accompaniment to some good quality sausages or steak. And of course, I will always pick through the leaves before discarding and take the smaller ones for a colourful addition to a salad.

The slaw recipe below is something I made up yesterday to deal with some vegetables that I had just harvested. Some beautiful kohlrabi from the polytunnel (thriving this year) and believe it or not, some of last year’s carrots that I only managed to dig out the dregs of yesterday. Most of them were unusable as they had run to seed and started to rot in the ground. But I found one or two adequate specimens.

I also added a baby green onion to it, which was delicious. A green onion is an immature onion, picked before it’s ready – they pack an immense flavour punch and you can use them as you would a scallion, stalk and all. I suppose the combination of an over-ripe and under-ripe vegetable in the dish gives it some balance.

I love preparing food that way, experimenting with whatever the season and the garden has provided, rather than starting with a recipe and then going shopping. It’s an altogether healthier and more delicious approach.

The Basics – Sowing Beetroot

I generally do three sowings of beetroot. The first in March for an early polytunnel crop, the second in April for outside, and the final sowing in July for winter storage. Though beetroot will do well sown direct in the soil, I find slug damage can be an issue as the little seedlings emerge. So as is often the case, I think it’s more successful if sown in module trays first and then planted out later.

Germination is in about 10 days and you will have roots to eat in about 3 months. Sow one seed in each module of the module tray. Bear in mind that a beetroot seed is actually a “cluster” of up to five seeds, so you may need to thin out if they all germinate.

When planting out (about a month after sowing), plant them 4 inches apart in rows about 12 inches apart. Beetroot likes a deep, sandy soil, manured the previous winter. Apply organic fertiliser about a week before sowing.

Recipe of the Week – Kohlrabi, Carrot and Green Onion Slaw

shutterstock_385309252 Source: Shutterstock/elenamych

This recipe will keep in the fridge for a few days. You could do it without the mayo or yogurt to make it vegan, but I find that just a small amount brings it all together nicely.

Serves 3-4.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium kohlrabi
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 green onion
  • A handful of walnuts
  • A handful of raisins
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 2 tbs of mayonnaise or natural yoghurt

Directions

Peel and grate the kohlrabi and the carrot and put in a large bowl. Chop the green onion and add it to the bowl with the walnuts and the raisins.

Add the juice of the lemon and the mayo and stir well to combine it all. Season to taste. You could also add a little handful of chopped parsley.

Michael Kelly is founder of GIY and GROW HQ. 

Click here for more GIY tips and recipes.

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About the author:

Michael Kelly  / Grower

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