The kitchen is covered in red stains and the smell of vinegar is in the air. Which means our beetroot harvest is in full flow. Time, then, to compare our chosen varieties – the popular, bolt resistant ‘boltardy’ and a fancy Italian contender ‘bietola tonda di Chioggia’*
ROUND 1 – Growing
Boltardy: The tray of seeds sown indoors looked like they were itching to bolt but settled down as soon as they went outside. The later, directly sown seeds, all germinated successfully.
Bietola tonda di Chioggia: No noticeable difference in growing performance.
Round 1 winner: Tie
ROUND 2 – Harvest
Boltardy: No complaints. We’ve been steadily pulling small young beet for a while and bigger ones have formed nicely.
Bietola tonda di Chioggia: Again a near identical performance but they just edge it by reaching a harvestable size slightly earlier.
Round 2 winner: Bietola tonda di Chioggia
ROUND 3 – Pest attacks
Boltardy: After initial slug wipeouts they seemed untroubled by pests except for a few gnaws to the leaf and occasional hole in the roots.
Bietola tonda di Chioggia: Yet again, nothing to choose between the two.
Round 3 winner: Another tie
ROUND 4 – Looks
Boltardy: A typical gnarly, nobbly, deep red root with attractive red veined leaves.
Bietola tonda di Chioggia: This is where the main differences lie. The leaves are a less interesting plain green. The roots are smoother and pinker on the outside, but when cut through display striped rings. Sadly, this effect disappears when cooked.
Round 4 winner: Boltardy – the leaves give it the edge
ROUND 5 – Texture
Boltardy: A good beetrooty texture. Holds a nice firmness when pickled.
Bietola tonda di Chioggia: Nicely crisp when eaten raw, so great for salads, but a stranger slippery texture when cooked.
Round 5 winner: Boltardy
ROUND 6 – Taste
Boltardy: A decent flavour but could pack a bigger beetroot punch.
Bietola tonda di Chioggia: Lovely sweet taste to the roots. Strong flavour without the overpowering earthiness of some varieties.
Round 6 winner: Bietola tonda di Chioggia
The Two Thirsty Gardeners beetroot champion is… it’s a tie on rounds but the chairman’s verdict goes the way of Italy. Flavour is king and it’s worth a sowing to show off those stripes.
Seeds sown: Beetroot ‘boltardy’, Johnsons seeds
Beetroot ‘bietola tonda di Chioggia’, Italian kitchen, Suttons seeds
*Translation – round chard of Chioggia