When I was a child beetroot was more of a punishment than the wonderful earthy reward that it is today. All kids in the 80s knew that beetroot was something that grew in jars far, far away. If you were posh your mum would buy the crinkle slices and it served no purpose other than to destroy your taste buds and colour everything it touched – including the rest of your food. Hands up if you remember purple chips!
Fast forward a few years and I can’t get enough; in fact, beet and I have built a solid friendship. I now know how to get the best out of it – and it makes me feel awesome inside and out. Sweet, rich, juicy and packed with antioxidants, minerals and vitamin C, it can help lower blood pressure, promote good sleep and lend itself to curing many a modern-age malaise.
It used to be the preserve of late autumn into early winter but with the resurgence of this glorious purple vegetable, the past decade has seen the beetroot growing season expand and you can now enjoy cooking with it throughout the summer.
Small golfball sized beets are now available everywhere and are so sweet and full of flavour they can also be served raw like a radish. You can even eat the greens in a salad.
For larger sized beets, just wash thoroughly and bake on rock salt in a medium heated until tender. When you can peel the skin away with your thumb, it’s ready to eat. Allow it to cool and then simply rub the skin off – use kitchen gloves to save your fingers going purple! Eat it there and then while it’s still warm with a little olive oil or allow to cool before serving in a salad with roasted nuts and some salty cheese.
Any gardener will you tell you that beetroot is fantastically easy to grow at home and almost guarantees an excellent harvest. In fact, if you’re anything like me you will have an abundance of the stuff! Purple beetroot is still the most common variety; however, other varieties are just as easy to grow. Golden, striped and cylindra beets each have their own flavour and create amazing colourful dishes when presented together, adding vibrant colour to our plates in winter.
Use in soups and salads, throw into a pastry tart with some feta cheese, use in a veggie risotto or make beetroot jam.