More to beets than meets the eye

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I know some Aussies only consider their burgers complete with the addition of beetroot, but I still think this is a very underrated vegie. All parts of the beet are useable. 

The root is the bit we use most for cooking, but the leaves are also edible. From the root itself comes a dye, which can be used for fabrics but is mostly used as a commercial food colourant. 

It is easy to grow and is a crop that lends itself to planting in small doses for a succession of harvesting. 

I always sow outside, straight into a sunny spot that I have added some compost to. The seeds are large enough to be able to space them out. Make a drill about 2cm in depth and plant the seeds about 10cm apart. You should sow a few every two to three weeks to keep a constant supply. 

Beetroot is generally a trouble-free crop but does need watering in dry spells. Lack of water will cause the roots to become woody. 

Keep the bed as weed-free as possible but take care, for if you nick a root in the ground it will bleed. 

Beetroot matures quite quickly and for the best flavour and texture, pick the roots when they are no bigger than a tennis ball, after that they develop a woody texture. You can harvest them as ‘Baby Beets’ when they are only the size of a golf ball. Take care when lifting the roots so as not to damage them, especially if storage is the intention. 

Beetroot stores well and should keep through the winter. Lift the roots in early autumn and only use undamaged ones. Remove any surplus soil and twist off the leaves a few centimetres from the top of the root. It’s a good idea to wear gloves at this point to avoid ending up with red hands. 

Place the roots, not touching, in boxes of sand.