Beetroot, Beta vulgaris, is easy to grow and makes the perfect crop for 'beginner' gardeners. Roots are usually cylindrical or globe-shaped, and range in colour from darkest purple-red to pink, yellow and even white. Harvest them when they are young – no bigger than a golf ball – and eat them pickled, roasted, or grated and used in salads. Don't forget the leaves, which can also be harvested – use young greens in salads and older ones blanched like spinach.
Dating from 1840, heirloom variety Beta vulgaris 'Bull's Blood' produces deep red-purple edible leaves and small, tasty beets which are best harvested when they're 7cm (3in) in size. The plants do best in well-drained, rich soil (not freshly manured) and can even be grown in pots: at 5cm (2in) spacing for small beets, it's possible to fit several plants into the smallest space. It's a thirsty plant, particularly if grown in pots, and needs extra water during dry periods to reduce the likelihood of bolting.