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Instead blanch them for just a few minutes, writes Michael Kelly, as he also advises on growing beetroot and making celery soup.

UNLIKE HARDIER ROOTS like parsnips, I don’t leave my beetroot in the soil for the winter.

This week I lifted the whole lot of them for storage in a box of sand. I harvested 60 or so in all, which were from the third sowing  – sown in July and planted out about a month later.

Before putting the roots in to sand, they need a little cleaning up. Having twisted off the foliage on the beetroot, leaving a two-inch crown of stalks, I give the roots a good spray down with a hose to clean off all the muck.

I then leave them to dry off for a day or two.

At that stage, I grade them – only the best ones should be stored so any that have holes in them go straight to the kitchen to be used up.

I use horticultural sand which you can buy cheaply, in garden centres, but be mindful that you may need to dry it out before use, particularly if it has been stored outside.

Mine felt wet when I got it home, so I simply emptied the bags out on the bench in the potting shed to leave it dry out for a few days.

When ready, place the roots between layers of sand in a box, making sure they are not touching each other. Store the box in a dark, frost-free shed. Using three roots a week, this stash should last us about five months.

The Basics – Picking Brussels sprouts

Early maturing sprout varieties are now cropping.  Pick sprouts as soon as they are ready to eat, while still hard and firm and before they open out.  

Pick the sprouts from the bottom of the stem first and then move upwards. To harvest a sprout simply snap off by pulling downwards. The leaves at the top of the stems can be cooked like spring greens – very tasty they are too.

Do not ‘Irish mammy’ the sprouts by boiling the divil out of them for 20 minutes – apologies to all Irish Mammies.  

Blanch them in boiling water for just a few minutes and then fry them in some oil with a sliced clove of garlic and some almond flakes.

Season well and add some olive oil before serving.

Recipe of the Week – Celery and Apple Soup

If you have a large amount of surplus celery you could do worse than to make batches of this delicious celery soup for the freezer.

Ingredients:

For garnish:

Directions:

Gently fry the onions and garlic in butter until soft. Separate the stalks of celery so that you can save the inner leaves. Chop stalks finely and set aside inner leaves.

Peel and chop the potatoes and apples.

Add the celery, potatoes and apples to the onions.

Season well and fry gently with the lid on for about 15 minutes or until ingredients are very nearly cooked.

Add the hot stock, bring to the boil and simmer covered for about 10-15 minutes more. Liquidise.

Add lemon juice and nutmeg and adjust seasoning if necessary. To garnish each bowl first swirl in a teaspoon of cream and sprinkle celery leaves and bacon on top. 

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