Archive for the ‘Beetroot’ Category


The Beetroot patch

Last Sunday was calm, cool with a bright blue sky. After a busy spell, I at last found a couple of hours to dig up the beetroot crop, better late than never. Not a big patch (7 by 3 feet) but enough to keep me in beetroot for the year. My only worry was that it might be turning a bit woody the way radish goes if left in the ground too long but I need not have worried.

The crop when boiled for 45 minutes was then easy to top and tail and the skin was easily scraped off the warm red roots. While waiting for the roots to cook, the pickling mixture was prepared. Two pints of vinegar, black pepper, sprinkling of root ginger and allspice, two dessert spoons of brown sugar, 4 bay leaves and 4 crushed cloves of garlic and a few finely chopped shallots. Ideally, this would have been left to mature for a week but I needed to get the bottling done quickly so I boiled it up, simmering for a few minutes (an hour is recommended) and left to cool.

Now to chop up the skinned shiney beetroot and fill up the jars. I filled 15, three up on last years harvest. Kept back a couple of raw beetroot which tasted earthy and delicious grated with a salad. I bottled the bulk of the crop, however, as it is quick, nothing goes to waste and the bottled beetroot adds a great flavour to sandwiches in work during the year.

The pickling mixture was poured in to half fill each jar of beetroot. I used the reddened water from cooking the crop to top up each jar. Last year I made the mistake of filling each jar with the pickling mixture and the excessive vinegar was a bit overpowering, so more beetroot, less vinegar this year!

Garlic cloves and bulbs

Meanwhile, enough daylight left to separate the garlic cloves out from the bulbs ordered on line from based in Bantry, Co Cork. Very impressive overnight dispatch by post. The cloves were spaced 6 inches apart and sown 1 inch below the surface. Hopefully the crop from these cloves will be ready to add to next years batch of bottled beetroot.

A good book on beetroot I would recommend is ‘Beetroot, the Vitality Plant and its Medicinal Benefits’ by Margaret Briggs published in 2007 by Abbeydale Press.



Last Thursday, 10th June, 50 fellow kitchen gardeners dropped in at 7pm for a ‘tour’ of the garden and I managed to rustle up a cup of tea and cake  for them all.  It was Naul GIY group through Denise Dunne of The Herb Garden who first mooted the idea of a GIY garden visit and it turned out to be a very enjoyable and informative evening, (for me anyway!).

Naul was well represented as were GIYers from Skerries, Bog of the Ring, Lusk, Rush, Lucan, Donabate, Swords, Malahide, Garristown, Ballyboughal, Smithfield in Dublin City and of course Balbriggan GIY stalwarts were there too. I learned a fair few things myself from the banter during a balmy blue sky evening.

For example,  we were told garlic cloves are  best sown on the shortest day so they can be harvested on the longest day. So I look forward to celebrating the longest day by harvesting my modest garlic crop. It was suggested the Minister for Finance would appreciate a bulb or two. Supplying the Minister with garlic is the least I can do for my country!

The garden tour was also a win-win in that I had a very bushy cabbage patch which I needed to clear to make way for young beetroot and rainbow chard plants growing too big in modules. Lo and behold, the cabbage bush was stripped bare before the night was out. So over the weekend the remnants of last years brassica patch was finally transformed into a new season beetroot and rainbow chard patch. I hope my guests enjoyed cooking and tasting  this heritage variety of ‘everlasting cabbage’ which is generally not for sale in the shops.

Sadly this is but one example of fruit and vegetable varieties which used to be common but are now no longer widely available. I read that 100 years ago the USA had 100 times the varieties of edible plants available commercially compared to today. Humankind is becoming more and more dependent on fewer and fewer food species of flora or fauna. Worldwide three quarters of all food now derives from just 8 species. I read also that 98%  of all commercial seeds are controlled by just 6 companies, DuPont, Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow, Aventis and Mitsiu. At the same time, a third of all USA health spending is on diet related problem and Ireland has a history of copying US trends,

So as well as kitchen gardening being an instument of healthy community resilience, co-operation and self-reliance, there is also a important job to do in maintaining and enchancing the diversity of food species that have been developed over generations  to make communities not just wealthy but healthy too.

Photos courtesy of C.Finn:

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Last chance before political work takes over to store up the beetroot and courgette crop. I need the ground where the beetroot has been growing to plant autumn onion sets. It suits me therefore to harvest the lot, boil and bottle them in vinegar with some onion and herbs from the garden in each jar. After giving away some beetroots at the Cool Earth exhibition in Dun Laoghaire last weekend, I have enough to make 14 jars full. I shall see how they keep in the cool athmosphere of the attic in the months ahead.

The glut of courgettes growing on my patio requires them to be cooked and stored also. The simplest thing for me to do was just make soup. Again the onions from the garden came in handy and the soup is tasty. The bulk I will freeze for re-heating during the colder days of winter ahead.

Even though the days are drawing in, there is still good light for sowing  my weekly few radish seeds alongside the autumn lettuce I planted out. Meanwhile, I’m on the look out for the Radar variety of onion sets which are specifically for autumn planting. I have covered the former beetroot patch with old carpet to keep the soil weed free and warm in readiness for the trusty Radar sets when I can get some.

Mid-June review.

The garden is full of lif right now. It’s fantastic to see how much growth there has been in the last month. The weather has been almost ideal, with lots of bright sunny days and the occassional shower to keep things moist. The video gives a quick tour of the garden and it’s interesting to compare it with the overview taken in May. It’s geting difficult for the camerman to find a place to stand!


Warmest day of 2009 so far on Sunday 24th with 18c in Balbriggan. Planted out beetroot and leaf beet seedlings in the final plot of the four to be set with this years crop. With the bright dawn so early now, it is a real pleasure to get up and out before breakfast to hand hoe between rows just to savour the optimism of a vegetable garden beginning to fill out with growing plants.

The week has been an interesting one too, visiting a community garden in Rosscarbery in West Cork with Green Party / Comhaontas Glas candidate from Clonakilty, Bernie Connolly. Called in on a number of school gardens in the area including Gaelscoil Chloch na Coillte. Thug leanai rang a haon pictiur alainn dom. Taim an-bhroduil as!

Tuesday, I helped launch a Grow Your Own free seed project sponsored by Glenisk, the organic dairy business. The free seed project is to be run by The Organic Centre in Co Leitrim. Had a good chat with Andy and Hans from the Centre afterwards.

Back in Fingal, called in to Trinity House, Oberstown near Lusk to see their wonderful new fruit and vegetable garden. The youngsters are driving this development and I was delighted to plant a ‘James Grieve’ apple tree, the same variety as my solitary apple tree at home which gives me a great supply of juice to last a whole year. The Trinity House garden also has two other very tasty dessert varieties, ‘Katie’ and my favourite, ‘Elstar’.

Other garden jobs done during the week include weeding the front garden, cutting the grass. I used the clippings to mulch around the raspberries this time. Harvested comfrey and added leaves to comfrey liquid feed. Quare smell but great stuff or so organic growers tell me. I know about the smell and I’ll know more about the growing effects of the feed in due course after I’ve diluted it to water and feed my tomato and courgette plants.