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If using older varieties you will find that each seed (really a cluster of seeds) produces more than one seedling. Thin to the strongest once the seedlings are established. Alternatively choose a modern monogerm (single-seeded) variety such as ‘Moneta’.
Sowing seeds in small groups in plugs however works well. This allows you to sow undercover where the seeds can get a good start early on. They can then be planted out and grown on as one plant without disturbing the roots.
For the most tender roots, harvest when small – once they reach the size of a golf ball.
Water regularly during dry spells to discourage ‘bolting’ (running to seed) prematurely and keep watering even to avoid tough or split roots.
The leaves are edible, too. Any variety will do for leaf production, especially if harvesting as baby leaf. However heritage variety ‘Bull’s Blood’ produces the most attractive leaves for harvesting.
When trimming the roots after harvesting, twist rather than cut the tops from the root, leaving a few inches of stem attached. This reduces ‘bleeding’ when cooking.
Roots store well in moist peat or sand in boxes in a cool, frost free, dark place over winter. For overwintering sow in July. Roots should be lifted by October, but in very mild areas will survive outdoors for lifting as required if covered with cloches or straw.
There are lots of super varieties to try. ‘Boltardy’ is an old bolting resistant type. For delicious orange roots try the new ‘Boldor’ or for long red roots that are easy to slice ‘Alto F1’ is hard to beat. There are many heritage types; ‘Chioggia’ produces red roots with attractive white rings and ‘Albina Veriduna’ has pure white roots.Enjoy more Kitchen Garden reading in the monthly magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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