It is a complete mystery me why so many people (even gardeners themselves) consider silver beet a ‘lesser species’. I can only assume they are leaving it to grow until it is tough and leathery, or harvesting it during a drought when the same problem can occur. As with its cousin, the robust, leafy green, perennial spinach beet (Beta vulgaris), silver beet has the potential, when picked young, to be every bit as sweet and tender as the more sought-after spinach.

To get the very best from silver and perennial beet, grow it from seed or transplant as seedlings into well draining soil which has been heavily enriched with compost, aged animal manure, rotted seaweed and a sprinkle of lime. Nothing else is needed apart from mulch to prevent weed growth, bait to deter slugs and snails, and a cover to keep off the birds which enjoy shredding the leaves for their own meals. Harvest before the leaves become so large they turn over and flop, and always cut from the base of the stem. Cutting any higher is to invite disease to settle into the wound. Unless you are wishing to clear the garden, there is no need to harvest an entire plant but, if you do, cut it so that 2-3 centimetres remain above ground.

That way, it is likely the plant may send up new growth. Perennial beet, on the other hand, can be cut low to the ground and is almost sure to send up new leaves (and will likely do so for several years).

Even in the coldest regions of the country, silver and perennial beet will survive in green houses or in pots under the eves of the house. They are not so attractive once processed and frozen so it is worth putting effort into keep fresh leaves going through winter. They can be wilted and used in fritters, frittatas, omelettes, spanikopitas, curries, and as fillings for gozleme. Rather than being a poor relation, silver and perennial beet deserve to be placed upon a pedestal.

Once you have discovered how delicious leafy beets are in gozleme and many other winter dishes, leave one or two of your plants in a corner of the garden to run to seed. They will do this quite happily and you can then either harvest the seed to sow next season, or leave the plant to self-seed in its original bed.

Turkish gozleme is a great way to use your silver beet - check out Diana's recipe.

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