Bright red beetroot

Bull’s Blood beetroot

I was leafing through the book I wrote with Pam Vardy, Community Gardens: A Celebration of the People, Recipes and Plants  because I had been thinking about refugees and immigrants and how much they have enhanced our lives. Since the new government has been in power (and to some extent the previous government) the rhetoric has again resembled that of the Howard government and the Tampa. It was the events surrounding Tampa that prompted Pam and myself to get together and combine our skills (hers in interviewing and cooking, and mine in gardening and writing) to produce a book that show cases just a few of the very many ways that people from other cultures and countries have added to our lives and lifestyles in Australia. To highlight this, I thought that from time to time, by taking extracts from the book,  I would focus on unusual individual plants or ways of using plants that we would not otherwise have available for our gardens or meals.


Detroit Beetroot

Beetroots Beta vulgaris are biennial root vegetables that grow as a clump of oval to lance-shaped leaves with a swollen root. If left in the ground, in the second year the plant will put up a flower stem to about 1 m topped with small green flowers. Swollen roots are usually bright red, but can be white or yellow or striped red and white.
Grow beetroots from seed sown directly into the soil where they are to grow from spring to late summer. Space seed 10 cm apart in rows 30 cm, thin the seedlings once the seed have sprouted. Start harvesting roots about two months after planting. Beetroot grows well in any reasonable well-drained soil in full sun. Make sure they have adequate water once the bulbs start to swell.
Garden talk
Both the leaves and roots of beetroot are eaten raw in salads. Take only the outside leaves, and don’t take too many from each plant, or the roots will not develop. The roots are baked, boiled or steamed and eaten hot or cold. Kapitolina believes that beetroots, and beetroot juice, are fantastic for those who have stomach problems, like ulcers. Rawda uses beetroot in salads, after it has been boiled, and sometimes pickles it.

Ethiopian Recipe from Tawfik
Vegetable Salad
1 fresh beetroot, boiled until tender
1 large carrot, sliced and boiled until tender
2 hard boiled eggs
juice 1 lemon

Drain the beetroot and carrots. Plunge into cold water to cool quickly. Drain again.
Peel beetroot and slice. Peel eggs and slice. Arrange the beetroot slices on a plate, top with carrot slices, and then egg slices. Squeeze lemon juice over top and serve. Serves 2

Bull's blood beetroot in a pot

Bull’s blood beetroot in a pot

Russian Recipe from Lioudmila
Beetroot Salad
100 g green beans
500 g sauerkraut
5 potatoes, boiled but still firm
1 large beetroot, peeled and boiled until tender
3 dill pickles, diced
1 large onion, finely sliced
100 g parsley, finely chopped
50 ml olive oil

Top and tail the beans, boil until cooked but still firm, drain, plunge into cold water to cool quickly. Drain again. If using tinned sauerkraut, rinse well. Peel the boiled potatoes and dice. Grate the beetroot. Mix all the vegetables and herbs together in a bowl and toss with oil. Serves 4

If you are interested in reading more about the people, recipes and plants of our community gardens then borrow the book from your library, buy it from your local bookshop or buy it online from this site. Community Gardens