Lovely leafy beets

There’s not a huge amount of stuff you can be getting into the ground at this time of year, which is why it’s such a pleasure to contemplate one’s leafy beets!

They thrive in most soils, although the more nice rich compost/manure you can give them, the more lush those leafy leaves will be; they handle either sun or partial shade and the really really lovely thing about them is that successional sowing from now until the end of August will give you a crop that can be picked through the winter and spring.

Leafy beets include Spinach Beet, Seakale Beet and Swiss Chard, and my especial favourite, Rhubarb Beet, aka Rhubarb Chard – so named for its red mid-ribs and stems and burgundy purple leaves.

Growing leafy beets

Sow about an inch deep in drills protecting your sowing from birds and cats with mesh or cotton on sticks. Thin to about eight inches between plants and do not transplant, beets and chards are not fond of root disturbance – you can use the thinnings as a salad crop, and they are really good with oak-leaf lettuce and rocket, I find.

Harvest the leaves when they are large enough, starting with the outers and without lifting the beet from the ground – try not to cut the leave but break them off as near the rootstock as possible, taking a few from each plant rather than denuding one plant entirely. You’ll get several pickings from each plant.

Cook the mid ribs like asparagus and serve with melted butter – very good with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. You can tear the leaves and use like any other green leaf crop by boiling or steaming briefly. The greatest thing about the Rhubarb Beet or Chard is that if a couple of plants bolt off and flower it doesn’t matter at all – simply pick the flowering shoots before the buds open and cook like sprouting broccoli – gorgeous!

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Posted by The Allotment Blogger on Friday, August 10, 2007


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lots of terms here I'm not familiar with. Rhubarb 'chard' or 'beet': as in what I would think of as a beetroot? That is, the red bulb under the ground, and not as in rhubarb, vis a vis, rhubarb crumble?

If the latter, then opportune the subject comes up :) I know rhubarb leaves are poisonous to animals (I managed to kill two pet lambs when I was about ten years old :( ). However, can the leaves be composted?

Great blog.

Mark Hubbard

August 11, 2007 at 4:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another query sorry. I'm going to buy some runner beans this week for early season beans (still mid winter in NZ): do I need to go to the extent of nailing wooden trellis up, (I'm growing them against a 30 to 40 foot wooden retaining wall on a hill), or will they climb up simple bits of string strung up for the purpose?

Cheers Mark

August 11, 2007 at 4:54 PM  
Blogger The Allotment Blogger said...

Rhubarb stalks contain a high concentration of oxalic acid which slightly toxic - it can certainly make small children very ill if eaten uncooked (although what kind of small child eats raw rhubarb is beyond me, the stuff is so bitter) and as Mark says, livestock is very much at risk, especially small animals like rabbits, young cattle and sheep etc. But when rhubarb is added to a compost pile the oxalic acid is decomposed and pH balanced rather quickly. People do not eat compost piles as a rule. If in doubt, (and some people are) you can shove the leaves in a big pot and boil them for two minutes - that kills off the acid, just as it does in the stems when we eat them. Then they are utterly safe to be composted.

August 15, 2007 at 2:43 AM  
Blogger The Allotment Blogger said...

For runner beans, my personal suggestion would be to buy a piece of large scale netting and some nails (or cup hooks). Nail the netting to the wood, or hang it from cup hooks (you can put them along the sides at right angles too, to stretch the net taut) and let the beans clamber. I prefer cup hooks because they give that little bit of space for the beans to travel behind the mesh. At the end of the year just unook the net, roll it up and put it away for next year. Remember to check the suggested growing height of your beans and to pinch the top of of the plants when they reach it, to encourage more side growth or they will try to grow up the whole thirty feet! It takes less time than stringing strings and the system can be used for several years in a row ...

August 15, 2007 at 2:51 AM  
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October 30, 2007 at 9:25 AM  

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