Tag Archives: beetroot

Productive Days

I spent a good three hours outside yesterday, followed by a good couple of hours peeling and chopping. Mostly, I was sorting out the beetroot and blanching carrots. I planted a couple of rows of beetroot (about 5 m length between the two) and I’ve got more than enough for all my needs. Last year, I got a few, and they were delicious. They went entirely on pickles, as I love pickled beetroot – it appeals to my love of sweet and sour.

I planted two rows – one of a standard ‘cheap’ pack from Wilkinson’s, and one of a bolt-hardy organic T&M version. I’ve only started digging up the Wilkinson’s ones because they’re nearest and that ground is HARD!  I managed to unearth some onions which were disappointingly small. Some had gone to seed. I don’t feel so bad because there’s a whole field of onions near Taponnat that have gone to seed, and unless he wanted seed, he’s going to be very cross, I imagine. They’ll do for pickling, too. It’s a good job I love pickles. One or two have grown to full size, but they’re disappointing, given how wet it’s been.

The beetroot, on the other hand, are perfect. I’ve already done two large jars of pickles and the rest will go for proper cooking. I’m going to do some roasted, possibly with mackerel, as recommended by Nigel Slater. I’m also going to make some beetroot relish – another love of mine. It’s that earthy sweetness that gets me. I profess, too, I love the pink-red blood stains. I love the leaves. I love everything about this vegetable. I’m also planning on making a beetroot seed cake – another Nigel Slater recipe. He’s obviously a fan of beetroot too.

I planted the beetroot on February 29th, and the first greenness appeared just as the land flooded at the beginning of May.


So from seed to shoot was about 4 weeks, then about another 4 to get to this size. And another three months to get to harvest size. To be honest, I could have pulled them out earlier. I also planted them fairly closely and didn’t thin out, which has kept them plentiful and of a good size. Last year, they were far too big – bigger than a cricket ball. This year, they’re between golf ball size and tennis ball size – so I’ve got a range for pickling and a range for roasting and salads. Yes, I end up with red fingers, but to be honest, that’s part of the pleasure.

Whilst I know I’m not of the same calibre as the wonderful Mavis of 100$ a month (although I aspire to be!) I had 4 kg of beetroot yesterday. Yes, I know. 4kg. And that’s about an 1/8th of it. Oh well. It’s all good. Plus, they store well, freeze well and make excellent pickles and chutneys and cakes.


On not having straight lines

Now I’m of an artistic bent, and I can do straight lines. I can write on blackboards in straight lines. I’m well used to writing on straight lines. I’m used to getting teenagers to line up, which is akin to keeping chickens in a straight line. We used to say teaching is like herding cats. It isn’t. It’s like herding chickens. A whole world more difficult. You’d think straight lines would come naturally, then, given my past.

Not so.

I’ve just planted my cauliflowers out, and it looks entirely random. It looks, in fact, as if someone had an idea of what a straight line might be and then ignored it completely. Kind of like the Inuit imagining the desert and then doing their own thing with a whole load of sand if asked to create a desert, putting it all in pots or something. It looks like I’ve tried to be random. And this is frustrating, because I didn’t. It doesn’t even look artistically random. Oh well. The cauliflowers will either grow or they won’t, and it doesn’t really matter if they’re in a straight line because I hope they’ll soon be great big things that will either look even more random, or like they’re in some semblance of a straight line.

Now I aspire to be like M. Richon, our elderly neighbour, whose straight lines are immaculate. I bet if you put a ruler by them, they’d be perfect. I bet his plants are all equidistant. Mine aren’t. This disappoints me even more.

Not only that, but despite my raking, the veg plot I’ve put them in is like a mini-version of the Alps, up and down and not at all flat. Let’s just say I’ve disappointed myself. Oh well. I’m giving a gallic shrug at this point and trying not to care, even though my pride is a bit dented. I’d love to take photos of immaculate rows of cauliflowers, but I suspect they’ll never see the ethernet out of my own shame.

But the cauliflowers have gone outside.

This is as traumatic to me as leaving Jake at school on his first day, which was very traumatic indeed. I’m worried about my cauliflowers outside of the warmth of the polytunnel, even though I’ve done everything I can to acclimatise them. It will be the first thing I’ll do in the morning – go out and check they’ve all made it through the night. I planted them out today because it’s kind of overcast and apparently, it’s going to rain later. We’ve not had much in the way of rain recently (and I’m hoping it doesn’t all appear when Jasmin is here, or my mum, though I suspect my mum cares less about sunshine than Jasmin might, and either way, neither would care very much since they’re here to see us, not our glorious blue skies. Although glorious blue skies are an added bonus.) and so I’m hoping it will rain and get them nice and moist so they can bed in. Just like leaving a child at primary school, you do all you can to make it pleasant, but you worry, probably much more than you ever need to. And what’s worse is that I know that these are just seeds, not babies. Maybe there’s a reason they call it a ‘nursery’ for plants… the place they go before the big, wide world where they’ll encounter slugs and snails, moles and rabbits, cats and dogs and the likes.

I’ve also planted some beetroot in our bumpy, lumpy, uneven veg plot. Apparently, they don’t like to be moved. They like the big wide world to start with. Now I’m really worried about that. If any of them appear, I shall be amazed.

I’ve gone back to using the dibber, which Steve hid from me on account of various threats of dibber abuse on my behalf. I used to dig out little rows and then plant stuff in but I’m also, it transpires, very bad at spacing things out. Thus my turnips aren’t in a nice, even line, but in a big clump that I’ll have to separate. So back to the dibber, which gives you real backache. Bend, dib, plant, cover, stretch. Ad infinitum. You can’t sit down and do it. You have to go along, standing and crouching. If I end up with a hump, I won’t be surprised.

I’ll be having a sleepless night tonight, partly because of the worry over my cauliflowers and partly because I’ve crippled myself. Maybe, partly, I shall be worrying over the lumps and bumps and dodgy lines. This is how nature brings you to your knees.