GROW FOOD slow food Have your garden and eat it too. A practical guide to organic gardening in the sub-tropics with step-by-step instructions and delicious seasonal recipes. Come with me too on some of my travels in Australia, Europe, Asia and beyond.
Fresh beetroot at the Mullumbimby Farmers Market

Beetroot is one of those really versatile foods that keeps popping up on my food journey and has grown in my estimation – I now really olive it.  The trouble is most of us are stuck with the taste and image of that ‘stuff” from our childhood – the pickled variety that went with Sunday salad: iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber and salad cream.  I loved a segment of Jamie Oliver ‘At Home’ where he did a spoof on this salad and then, at the end, threw the iceberg lettuce in the air and then blasted it with a double-barrel shotgun.  My Aunty Phil, the gods bless her, even had a speciality of pickled beetroot with raspberry jelly!!!!.  Forget about all of that,  I am about to convert the unconverted – here goes.

It’s good for you!!!  Researchers at WakerForest University in North Carolina have shown that a diet that includes about 500ml of beetroot juice per day helps improve blood flow to certain regions of the brain in older people.  In particular the effects were noted in the frontal lobe – a part of the brain that commonly experiences reduced blood flow in age-related dementia and cognitive decline.  The effect is likely to occur because beetroot juice (like spinach, celery, cabbage and other leafy green vegetables) is a good source of nitrates.  These compounds are converted into nitrites by the good bacteria in the mouth, and act as vasodilators – in other words they have the capacity to open the blood vessels and enhance blood flow”  Gardening Australia 2011

Sauteed beetroot tops.  It tastes good!!!  I remember sitting in Nikos Taverna in Kos, Greece and seeing these chaps next to me eating something very unfamiliar – a vegetable I had never seen before.  Well thought I hadn’t seen – it was just a part we always threw away – beetroot tops.  I have cooked this many times since and it is delicious.  In Greece this dish of ‘wild greens’ comes under the generic labelling of ‘horta’ – where the word horticulture comes from, and is generally eaten with grilled fish and some crusty bread.

1 bunch a fresh beetroot leaves
1 clove garlic crushed (optional)
2 tbs olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
cracked black pepper and sea salt

Wash beetroot leaves thoroughly
Blanch in hot water for 1 minute, drain
Meanwhile heat frypan with oil
Toss in garlic and beetroot leaves, add salt, pepper, lemon juice and, when completely wilted, serve immediately.

How about this beetroot dip? You should see the luscious colour!!!
1 par-boiled beetroot about 250g
2 cups Greek yoghurt
1 clove garlic crushed
sea salt and cracked pepper

Peel cooked beetroot and grate.  Add all the other ingredients and mix thoroughly and eat with strong bread.  

Beetroot Brownies.  I am serious!!!

River Cottage Beetroot Brownies

These are very good.  I saw Hugh Fernlay-Whittingstall on his ‘River Cottage’ TV programme rise to the challenge of making a whole meal (3 courses) from beetroot.  This was one of them.
250g butter
250g chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
3 eggs
250g caster sugar
150g S.R. wholemeal flour
sea salt
250g grated cooked beetroot

Heat oven to 180oC
Melt chocolate ant butter together in large pan on low heat.  Cool
Beat together eggs and sugar.
Add egg mixture to chocolate and butter
Stir in flour and salt
Gently stir in grated beetroot
Spread in shallow square pan lined with non-stick baking paper and bake for 20-25 mins.
Do not over cook otherwise they become too crumbly.

I made these for my Garden Club today and was lucky to get a photo before they disappeared.

Beetroot Risotto – the purple trip continues……………………..
I was having a coffee and homemade pastry at Mullum’s La Table Cafe this morning when I noticed they had Beetroot Risotto as the lunch special of the day.  Emboldened with organic caffeine I asked chef Dave Ness for the recipe.  I cannot guarantee that this is exactly his (Dave, edit please) – but here goes!

50g butter + 2tbs e.v.olive oil
250ml fresh beetroot juice
600ml stock
250g arborio rice
200g best kind of mushrooms you can get, sliced
150ml red wine
1 clove crushed garlic
1/2 cup chopped chives
75g toasted walnuts
125g goats cheese, crumbled

1.  Heat oil and butter, add garlic (I have an aversion to putting onion in risotto, but others may)
2.  Add rice and sir for a couple of minutes
3.  Add heated stock gradually, stirring all the time + wine at room temp.
4.  Add beetroot juice.
5.  Keep stirring until almost cooked then add mushrooms.  Meanwhile, toast the walnuts.
6.  Correct seasoning and add mushrooms + chopped chives.  Stir through toasted walnuts.
7.  Serve with crumbled goats cheese and garnish with a few chopped chives.
No wonder the Italians have a good lie down after lunch!!

Roast Beetroot Salad:  With goats cheese and pecans.  
This salad is a family favourite that is a meal in itself.

1 bunch fresh beetroot (boil the beets until they are just tender)
2tbs olive oil
250g fresh green beans (you can substitute this with salad leaves/snow peas)
2tbs balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup pecans, toasted
150g goats cheese or fetta
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Heat oven to 180oC
  2. When the beets are cooked, peel them and cut into bite size pieces
  3. Toss them in a bowl with 1tbs olive oil and 1 tbs balsamic vinegar and a good dash of salt and pepper.
  4. Spread out on a tray lined with baking paper and place in oven for 15mins.
  5. A couple of minutes before the beets are cooked place the pecans on the tray too and put back in the oven to toast.
  6. While the beetroot is roasting blanch the beans for 1 minute in boiling water and refresh in cold water.  Place in salad bowl
  7. When the beets are nicely roasted – let them cool for a few minutes and then place on top of the beans.
  8. Make a simple dressing with the rest of the olive oil and balsamic and some extra salt and pepper.  Add at this stage to the salad otherwise it will stain the white cheese.
  9. Add the toasted pecans to the salad and crumble over the goats cheese or feta.

Growing Beetroot:  Beetroot prefer to be grown in moist, fertile soil in a sunny spot, but will also thrive in raised beds or pots.  For foolproof beetroot, sow seeds directly into the soil every few weeks for an almost continuous crop.  Pick the leaves for salad mix and harvest beet from golfball to apple size – full maturity takes about 90 days.