Beetroot – The French Alternative

Jackie French loves sitting down to a feast of delicious, home-grown beetroot. She grows all different kinds – red, white, yellow, long, round, and even a sweet, candy-striped variety.

Beetroot (Beta vulgaris)

Beetroot grows in a wide range of climates. Sow seed from July to March in temperate climates and September to February in cold zones. In warm tropical areas beetroot can be sown in most months of the year. Beets like full sun and fertile, well-drained soil. Do not add fresh manure to the soil, but rather sow where a leaf crop such as spinach, lettuce or cabbage has grown before.

Thin young seedlings to allow roots to develop. Mulch the bed to suppress weeds, keep the soil moist and feed with a liquid fertiliser. Beets are ready to harvest in 8-12 weeks. Pull alternate roots early to spread the harvest and allow remaining roots to grow bigger.

Jackie grows many varieties of beetroot, including:

‘Italian Chioggia’
An heirloom beet from Chioggia, a fishing town on the Adriatic coast. Also known as ‘Bull’s Eye Beet’, it has dark red skin with alternating pink and white rings when cut. It has a sweet, mellow flavour.

‘Giant Western’
Also known as sugar beet, ‘Giant Western’ is a vigorous, heavy yielding beet with large roots that are used for extracting sugar and feeding livestock. The young roots and leaves are also tasty.

The long, slender red roots of ‘Cylindra’ are sweet and tender. They yield up to four times more uniform slices than a round beet. They’re good in salads and meat dishes and they are ideal for pickling. The leaves can be eaten as greens.

Jackie’s Best Boiled Beetroot

Any beetroot can be used in the recipe below. If red and white beets are cooked together the white beetroot will turn orange. The white is slightly sweeter and coarser than the red, but they basically taste and feel the same.


1-3 large red or white beetroot 3 tablespoons olive oil 1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 cloves garlic, chopped


1. Peel beetroot and cut into bite sized pieces.
2. Just cover with water and boil until the water is almost all gone and the beetroot is tender. Add more water if it’s still a bit hard, but not too much.
3. Remove from heat and add olive oil, white vinegar and garlic. Stir for 1 minute. Serve as a side dish, either hot or cold.

Note: A pinch of salt or half a teaspoon of brown sugar can be added with the oil and vinegar. Half a teaspoon of fresh or dried dill leaves also adds a nice flavour.

Getting started

Yates Seeds sell four different types of beetroot through retail outlets such as nurseries, supermarkets and hardware stores. For more information phone 1800 224 428 or visit their website:

Beetroot seed is also readily available by mail order from seed suppliers such as:

Eden Seeds
Ms 905 Lower Beechmont 4211
Phone: (07) 5533 1107
Fax: (07) 5533 1108
Freecall orders: 1800 188 199

Kings Seeds
PO Box 975
Penrith, 2751
Phone: (02) 4776 1493
Fax: (02) 4776 2090

New Gippsland Seeds and Bulbs
PO Box 1
Silvan, 3795
Phone: (03) 9737 9560 Fax: (03) 9737 9292
Freecall orders: 1800 887 732