With winter well and truly announcing its arrival this week, I've been hunkering down inside, spending a lot of spare time cooking, writing, and playing with my kids by the fire. All worthwhile activities, of course, but they ain't gardening and my poor vegie patch must be feeling a wee bit neglected.
This isn't to say the patch is looking bad. For this time of the year it's actually quite pretty, thanks largely to my strategy of planting colourful plants to brighten things up a bit during the darkest, drabbest months of the year. At the moment I'm growing 'Dutch Capucyner' pea, with it's purple/pink flowers, 'Lollo Rosso' lettuce, 'Purple Sprouting' broccoli, 'Purple Dragon' carrot (which has attractive purple leaf stalks), 'Red Russian' kale, and 'Rainbow' chard, which is about as colourful as a vegetable gets. Soon there will be crimson flowered broad beans, red mustard, fiery raddichio and 'Golden Detroit' beetroot.
The pick of the bunch is 'Bulls Blood' beetroot. This amazing heirloom variety produces a sweet, intense red root, topped by handsome leaves that take on the hue of pinot noir as the plant matures and temperatures plummet. Bulls Blood is a cracker of a plant, perfect for growing through winter.
If you're not sure what to do with beetroot beside pickling it, try roasting it. Cut a few roots into chunks, splash them with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, scatter over some woody herbs like thyme and rosemary, a grind of salt and pepper, the into a moderate oven until the beetroot is tender and caramelised. I kid you not, it's one of the nicest things I've ever eaten, especially when thrown into a salad with toasted walnuts and a creamy goat cheese.