The Edible Garden episode 3 – Roots and Leafy Greens: In the challenge of turning a small urban backyard into a beautiful and edible garden, root crops and leafy greens are the mainstays.
Alys Fowler attempts to avoid shop-bought fruit and vegetables and live off her own, home-grown produce, all from her tiny terraced back garden. It’s no easy task because Alys doesn’t want to turn her garden into an allotment, so she’s growing her fruit and vegetables among her flowers.
Alys focuses on different foods and shows how anyone can grow, cook and eat from their own garden, even if they live in a city. In the challenge of turning a small urban backyard into a beautiful and edible garden, root crops and leafy greens are the mainstays. Planted amidst the majestic kales are the red stems of earthy Swiss chard and the deep purple foliage of beetroot, all delivering delicious dishes from mid-summer right through the winter.
Alys doesn’t go short of tasty options: beetroot and yoghurt soup, rhubarb and raspberry pie and a good supply of eggs from her two chickens.
The Edible Garden episode 3 – Roots and Leafy Greens
Root vegetables are underground plant parts eaten by humans as food. Although botany distinguishes true roots (such as taproots and tuberous roots) from non-roots (such as bulbs, corms, rhizomes, and tubers, although some contain both hypocotyl and taproot tissue), the term “root vegetable” is applied to all these types in agricultural and culinary usage.
Root vegetables are generally storage organs, enlarged to store energy in the form of carbohydrates. They differ in the concentration and the balance among starches, sugars, and other types of carbohydrate. Of particular economic importance are those with a high carbohydrate concentration in the form of starch; starchy root vegetables are important staple foods, particularly in tropical regions, overshadowing cereals throughout much of Central Africa, West Africa and Oceania, where they are used directly or mashed to make fufu or poi.
Many root vegetables keep well in root cellars, lasting several months. This is one way of storing food for use long after harvest, which is especially important in nontropical latitudes, where winter is traditionally a time of little to no harvesting. There are also season extension methods that can extend the harvest throughout the winter, mostly through the use of polytunnels.
How to grow beetroot
Beetroot are easy to grow and ideal for anyone new to vegetable gardening. And beetroot is for more than pickling! Try roasting beetroot – or even put it in a burger when you’re having a barbecue. For best results, sow beetroot little and often, harvesting the roots when they are young, tender and the size of a golf ball. If you grow varieties for winter storage, it is possible to have beetroot almost all year round.
Sow three seeds at 10cm (4in) spacings, 2.5cm (1in) deep in rows 30cm (12in) apart, at fortnightly intervals from mid-April to July for a succession of tender, tasty roots. Use bolt-resistant varieties for early sowings under cloches or fleece in late February or early March. You can sow without protection from late March onwards.
Beetroot sown from June onwards can be used for storing in winter.