Kanae’s Beet Adventure

Beets, beets, beets! Their sweet earthy flavour and shocking magenta colour were enough to hook Sharon Hanna's Japanese student Kanae.

Credit: Sharon Hanna

Kanae was just 19 years old when she came to stay with me in February of 2007—a student at Tokyo University of Agriculture, she is also a talented artist, having studied drawing and painting from a young age.

Kanae was also a very serious student of botany and insisted I share the Latin names of many plants that were emerging and blooming in spring. The hardest one to pronounce was “Forsythia,” but she tried over and over again—much to the amusement of my other students and family.


How to grow beets – Sharon Hanna shows us how to do it.

Companion planting & roasted beets recipe– Janet Gyenes roasts heirloom beets from her community plot.

Kanae with West Coast Seeds
Here’s Kanae with beet
seeds from West Coast

Kanae took a particular liking to beets and also to borscht—we made it together, she helping me to chop the veggies. She had joined a cooking club with fellow ESL students attending a course at UBC so was absolutely tickled pink to make it for them as well as for her family upon returning home to Japan (see photo at top).


Though beets are difficult to come by in Japan—in fact, Kanae had never seen them for sale in a store—she did manage to find them at great cost, then decided to grow her own at home in her parent’s vegetable garden.

Beet seedlings coming up in Japan
Beet seedlings coming up in Japan!

Kanae loved all forms of life—birds, butterflies and any other insect. She particularly enjoyed visiting with the bees at Strathcona community gardens when a beekeeper was showing us the hives.  

Kanae with bee on her finger
Here’s Kanae’s finger complete with a worker bee.
Kanae's watercolour of butterflies
Kanae’s Butterflies