Plot Notes

A personal journal, open for the world to read, recording the progress of a novice allotmenteer on his allotment.

Weed it and reap.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Beetroot - Best Root

I had a go at growing beetroot this year for the first time. It was a very simple crop to grow and has been one of my success stories for this year. I set aside a 6ft x 4ft corner of the plot and sowed a few rows of Boltardy Beetroot seeds, about 6 inches apart, directly into the ground in about late April or early May. I had pre-prepared the ground by digging it over and lining each row with an inch or two of home made fine brown crumbly compost. I then left the beetroot patch undisturbed for about four months.

I had pretty much forgotten about the beetroot until the end of August when I was scratching around on the plot to see if there was any reasonably attractive produce which would fit into any of the classifications at our local agricultural society show on the August bank holiday Monday. Through the weeds which had invaded the beetroot bed I could see that there were a few decent sized roots protruding slightly above the surface of the soil and so I picked three of them, trimmed them, washed them and gave them a gentle scrub with a vegetable brush. They looked ok to my untrained eye. I have no idea what a show judge looks for in a beetroot but I entered them into the show anyway. 

I was surprised at the high number of entries in the beetroot class. My heart dropped when I noticed that everyone else had left long trailing roots on their beets. I had tidied mine up by snipping the roots off with a pair of scissors. Being an absolute novice I assumed that I had made a fatal mistake and that my castrated entries would be laughed out of the show tent. I left my docked efforts on the display table and went off to enjoy the rest of the show and to have a couple of consolatory beers in the beer tent.

I returned to the show tent about four hours later. I hoped that the hilarity caused by my eunuch beetroots would have died down by then. As I approached the display table I could see that one of my beetroots had been sliced in half. The judge must have liked what he found inside the beetroot because, to my total amazement, he had awarded second place to me.

During September and October Mrs PlotNotes boiled up a few beetroots every now and then and I enjoyed them sliced onto a cheese sandwich. Three or four weeks ago I realised that there were a lot of beetroots still in the ground. There were more than I could consume in cheese sandwiches alone and so I decided to do something else with them. After a bit of research I decided to make beetroot chutney.

I had never attempted to make chutney before. I don't really do very much cooking at all. It's not that I can't cook or won't cook it is just that Mrs PlotNotes has always arrived home from work before me and it makes sense for her to get cracking with the evening meal before I get home. When I do get creative in the kitchen, for example when making my patented chilli dumplings, it infuriates Mrs PlotNotes because I invariably use every utensil in the kitchen and it takes me twice as long to prepare any given dish than she would spend on it.

For the beetroot chutney I didn't follow a set recipe but pretty much made it up as I went along using ingredients which I had to hand. I boiled up 18 good sized beetroots. Whilst they were simmering I prepared an assortment of mis-shapen and misfit vegetables which had been lingering on the plot for far too long. These included three very large fat carrots which were too big to have as part of a meal but which were ideal for grating. I also finely chopped five large onions. In a blender I chopped up ten chilli peppers along with a load of tomatoes at various stages of ripeness ranging from green to red and slightly mushy. They were, I thought at the time, the last tomatoes of the year. In fact, there is now another crop of tomatoes ready for picking. I also chopped up a full garlic bulb.

I then peeled and diced the beetroots and put them into a very large deep cooking pot. By this stage the kitchen was starting to resemble a blood spattered murder scene. I then added the carrots, onions, garlic, chillis and tomatoes. Next I added about a pound and a half of granulated sugar to the mix and poured a pint and a half of Sarsons spiced pickling vinegar over the whole lot and brought it up to the boil whilst stirring. I also added a bit of salt, and the odd spoonful or sprinkling of various herbs and spices which I could find in the kitchen cupboards including, black pepper, cumin, turmeric, curry powder, and paprika. I then let the whole lot boil and boil and boil into the early hours of the morning. I think I had added too much vinegar and it took me hours of boiling until the mix reduced into something which had a nice looking chutney consistency to it.

In the meantime I had cleaned and sterilised my glass jars and warmed them up in the oven. I then scooped the chutney, whilst still hot, into the jars and sealed the lids tightly straight away. I stored the jars in a cupboard for almost a week before opening the first one for tasting. I am very pleased with the result. To me it tastes delicious but I think the best indication of quality comes from the fact that Mrs PlotNotes has been devouring it by the heaped spoonful putting large dollops of it on the side of her plate with virtually every meal.
Beetroot will definitely be on my seed order and menu for next year.


  1. Good, and interesting, post. Well done on getting a 'second'.
    I'm not that keen on beetroot but do like to lift them when small, little more than golf ball size. Try the golden variety which is sweeter, and which I do like. The only drawback is that I find germination rather erratic. Flighty.

  2. Looks and sounds lovely, and a great way of using up the odds and ends.

  3. I had a first pop at beetroot too, and was very impressed. I ate all of mine hot; they go great with venison!