The word bountiful has two meanings in my little dictionary widget. It can mean plentiful, ample, a bumper crop etc, or it can mean free giving, generous, benevolent (sorry, self confessed crossword addict) and I think either meaning could apply to beetroot. Along with a few other crops in the veg garden, it gives and gives but demands very little in return.
I’ve (so far) never had any problems growing beetroot, I think it’s one of the easiest crops to grow. I have a bed on the allotment that I dedicated to short rows of a variety of crops. Lettuce – which got eaten by slugs, spinach – which bolted, parsnips and swede – which had poor germination, spring onions – which were very slow to germinate and suffered in dry weather. The only crops to have done well are carrots and beetroot, and the carrots must be a fluke because I’ve not been able to get those going for the last two years running. Even then the carrots have gaps in the row, but the beetroot, as usual, has given me a full row of beautiful, deep red globes of earthy goodness and glossy, colourful leaves that can be eaten too.
Also, another thing I love about beetroot is that it doesn’t all become ready at once, which would be a problem. As much as I love it, there’s only so much you can eat in one go. The bulbs grow at different sizes, so you can pick the larger ones, giving space for the smaller ones to grow on. I rarely sow it successionally, as I find there’s no need to, it sort of does the job for me, and I’ve usually had my fill of it after one row anyway.
So – what to do with it? I grew up thinking I didn’t like beetroot because I’d only ever had it pickled in jars of vinegar, which I hated. Although as I’ve gotten older I have developed more of a taste for pickles, I still would hesitate to pickle beetroot as I personally think it spoils what is a delicious vegetable.
I often simply boil it, peel it and slice it into salads, but if you have the time, roasted is best. It brings out the sweetness wonderfully. I find wrapping them in foil helps to lock in the moisture and stops the juices from escaping, especially if you roast it with other vegetables and you don’t want everything to turn magenta pink. Apparently adding a bit of chilli into the foil wrap is nice, I’ll have to try that. It goes very well with feta cheese, but then I like most salad things with a bit of feta! The Flavour Thesaurus recommends salty accompaniments such as goats cheese or anchovies, dill or cumin to season, and oily fish, beef or pork to serve it with. Nigel Slater recommends dressing the cooked beetroot with raspberry vinegar which is something I keep intending to make with my homemade raspberries. I’ll get around to that one day. I haven’t tried making beetroot soup or risotto, but both are apparently nice. I can however, vouch for chocolate beetroot cake or brownies, it sounds odd, but the beetroot seems to make them extra moist but without adding much of a taste.
Beetroot crisps (above) are a favourite of mine too – see here, but what I am going to try out tonight is Nigels beetroot tzatsiki. 1 large beet grated into 200g natural yoghurt, 1 crushed garlic clove (no doubt I’ll add more than 1) and a few mint leaves. Sounds like just the thing for dunking some spicy potato wedges into.
For more recipes and info have a look at lovebeetroot.co.uk.