Feel the beet

These beetroot are – by any stretch – absolute clonkers, and so by the prevailing standards of the day, and at over a pound in weight each, they should be consigned to the compost heap.

We all grow at least one crop every year that gets neglected in favour of its more glamorous cousins; and at the Potwell Inn there’s usually a row of neglected beetroot somewhere on the plot. These came from the polytunnel and were among the first plants we sowed while we were anxiously waiting for the weather to improve. The tunnel is surprisingly good for early and presumably late root crops like beetroot and turnip. With turnips I can see the point of harvesting them when they’re no bigger than golf balls, because they get both tough and fierce flavoured as they get bigger. Parsnips and beetroots on the other hand seem to improve with age. In fact a long slow growing period seems to me to deepen the flavor. For me a beetroot needs that round, deep, sweet and earthy flavour and the youngest ones just don’t cut it. However, pickled beetroot is – to my mind – an abomination; far too vinegary and with no subtlety. These however have been rubbed with a bit of oil and roasted at 180C for about an hour and a half and believe me they taste better than their tiny lathe turned cousins which exist more for show than anything else. So they were well worth the neglect, you might say – and are due to be grated and finished tomorrow as a relish with fresh horseradish and roasted tomatoes, and which will, I’d be prepared to bet, make the most wonderful accompaniment to smoked mackerel.

Vegetable shortages in the shops have made it difficult to find one or two things we haven’t grown this year, but which we need to top up our stores of home made piccalilli. So it’s all hands to the stove again as we replenish the winter stores and make ready for the autumn sowings. Hopefully the vegetables in the tunnel will all have been cleared by the end of the month. Long day today so that’s it. Bye for now.

Author: Dave Pole

I've spent my life doing a lot of things, all of them interesting and many of them great fun. When most people see my CV they probably think I'm making things up because it includes being a rather bad welder and engineering dogsbody, a potter, a groundsman and bus driver. I taught in a prison and in one of those ghastly old mental institutions as an art therapist and I spent ten years as a community artist. I was one of the founding members of Spike Island, which began life as Artspace Bristol. ! wrote a column for Bristol Evening Post (I got sacked three times, in which I take some pride) and I worked in local and network radio and then finally became an Anglican parish priest for 25 years, retiring at 68 when I realised that the institutional church and me were on different paths. What interests me? It would be easier to list what doesn't, but I love cooking and baking with our home grown ingredients. I'm fascinated by botany and wildlife in general, and botanical illustration. We have a camper van that takes us to the wild places, we love walking, especially in the hills, and we take too many photographs. But what really animates me is the question "what does it mean to be human?". I've spent my life exploring it in every possible way and the answer is ..... well, today it's sitting in the van in the rain and looking across Ramsey Sound towards Ramsey Island. But it might as easily be digging potatoes or making pickle, singing or finding an orchid or just sitting. But it sure as hell doesn't mean getting a promotion, beasting your co-workers or being obsequious to power, which ensured that my rise to greatness in the Church of England flatlined 30 years ago after about 2 days. But I'm still here and still searching for that elusive sweet spot, and I don't have to please anyone any more. Over the last 50 or so years we've had a succession of gardens, some more like wildernesses when we were both working full-time, but now we're back in the game with our two allotments in Bath.

4 thoughts on “Feel the beet”

    1. Well we don’t grow grow the little silverskin onions for pickling, and our cauliflowers have come and gone. But because we’ve only got a standard 2500 square foot plot we have to make decisions about what to leave out every year. Next year, for instance, we’re already thinking we might grow less chillies and use the space in the greenhouse to grow more of those delicious Minnesota Midgets. Our purple sprouting broccoli have all flowered 3 months early due to the weird weather so we’ll be shopping for those too, I expect.

      1. Ahh, I see. I thought you meant the grocery stores were lacking some vegetables, but you meant “your stores.” Glad I asked the question, because you wrote a very thought-provoking answer!

      2. Funnily enough, though, we are all suffering shortages due to brexit and covid19. Apparently it didn’t occur to the government that leaving the European Community and effectively treating European workers as “foreigners” might lead to most of them going home – hence the shortage of lorry drivers and fruit pickers. Covid has made a bad situation even worse.

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