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Beetroot is really easy to grow and can be harvested after just 8–10 weeks. Eat it cooked, hot or cold, pickled in vinegar or added to a cake for a dark, rich moistness. The young leaves are good in salads.

Most beetroot varieties are globe-shaped, but some have longer, tubular roots resembling carrots. And while we all know the deep crimson varieties, golden-yellow and white species are also available.

Beetroot will grow almost anywhere, as long as the soil drains well and is not water logged.

Sow the seeds in autumn in partial or full sun. Before sowing, soak the seeds in water overnight, then place them directly in the prepared seedbed, in rows 30 centimetres apart and three centimetres deep. Cover lightly with compost and a light mulch to prevent them drying out and water lightly until the seedlings emerge (after 10 or so days).

Young beetroot shoots

When the young plants are about five centimetres tall, thin them out to about 10 centimetres apart. When ready to harvest (after 8–10 weeks), gently dig under the root with a trowel, taking care not to damage the root.

More information about growing beetroot can be found at www.thegardener.co.za

Beetroot is a good source of natural sugars, calcium, phosphorus, iron, vitamins A and C, niacin, thiamine and riboflavin. Folate, zinc and magnesium are found in the roots. The veggie is said to have anti-oxidant properties (although don’t be alarmed if it turns your urine pink) and the Romans took it as an aphrodisiac. Ukrainians certainly swear by it – beetroot soup, or borscht, is a staple in their diet. And it is delicious.

TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall complements its earthy taste with feta. Find the recipe here.

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Acknowledgements & Photo credits

1. Beetroots photo courtesy of Simon Howden / FreeDigitlaPhotos.net
2. Young beetroots photo by Randal.b (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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