A while back I was sent a book called "How to Store your Garden Produce" by Piers Warren. I gave it only a quick skim through back in May as I had nothing edible to store at the time but I knew that the book would come into it's own later in the year. That moment is now.
Last year, you may recall, despite loathing the taste of beetroot, I was determined to give it a try. I'm now converted and happy to eat beetroot in a variety of guises. (If you find yourself in a similar situation, you might like to be aware of this extensive list of beetroot recipes on the Abel & Cole website.)
As a result of my conversion, I have sowed plenty of beetroot seeds and I find myself in the same boat as other gardeners in that they all seem to be ready at the same time - in spite of successional sowing.
So, back to "How to Store …", look under the handy A-Z listing of veg, turn to B, yep, there it is … beetroot. A little bit of background, some recommended varieties (take note for next year), some advice ('pull beetroots for storage before they get too large and woody', yep, got that one), ('twist the foliage off, cutting causes bleeding of the beets', hmm, knew about the cutting, good tip on the twisting), then the How To. Seems to be two ways: Freezing and Dry Storage. So…
Freezing: Pretty straightforward this. Small beetroots should be washed and boiled whole - the book says for 1 or 2 hours in salted water. (Last year, I cooked mine for about 45 minutes, depending on the size, and that seemed to do the trick.) When cooked, rub the skins off, cool, slice and pack into containers ready for the freezer.
Dry Storage: This one I want to try, sounds interesting. Gently remove soil from undamaged beets and pack in sand in boxes, barrels, crates (see below). (My tip, go to your supermarket fishmonger for boxes. They're usually pleased to hand over their empty polystyrene boxes which are perfect for this and have a lid.) Store in a cool, frost-free building where they should keep until Spring.
He also mentions Pickled Beetroot (keeps for 3 months), Beetroot Wine (not my thing, but if you're a winemaker …) and Borscht (Russian/Polish beetroot soup) which, of course, can be frozen. Strangely, chutney isn't listed - perhaps because other vegetables are needed or it comes under pickling?
In an earlier section called 'The Methods', storing in sand (or sawdust) is described thus:
- Use sand that is only just moist (but what sort? play sand, builder's sand, garden sand? and does it even matter? Does anyone know?)
- Make layers of sand and roots (unwashed but with excess soil gently brushed off) in containers - making sure the roots don't touch each other.
- Store the containers in a dry, frost-free place. Cellar = good; shed/garage = perfectly adequate except in truly freezing weather. Consider filling them in situ - sand is heavy!