Growing Beets

Detroit Red Beet/ photo courtesy of seedsavers.org

Just like with Swiss chard, now is the time to plant beets. Beets  (or sugarbeet) take around 60 days from seed to maturity and should be given a spot in the garden where it can have time to grow because it takes some time to mature. You should plant them now in the spring and if you replant them in fall you can let them overwinter. It is a biennial that we grow as an annual to harvest the root. For more flavorful beets, grow them in cool conditions.There are many different types and coloring of beets from Golden, Bulls Blood Red, Chiogga, Detroit Red, Early Wonder and Cylindra to name a few. Bulls Blood Red is grown mostly for it’s beautiful red leaves that many people use in their salad greens.

I have to confess. Until a few years ago, I wasn’t a big beet fan. Perhaps it was because my mom gave us pickled beets or tasteless cooked beets from a can while I was a child (sorry mom). In her defense, we lived in a desert and back then it was hard to get fresh anything. So I wasn’t very enthusiastic about growing them. Then two things happen to change my mind about beets.

THING #1: One day a friend had me over for lunch and put roasted beets in with a lettuce salad and I was hooked. Beets get really sweet when roasted in an oven on low heat. They sorta get caramelized and are little nuggets of sweet.

THING#2: Two friends from Australia who are vegetarians came over for dinner one night and grated a raw beet and carrot on top of a lettuce salad. It was so bright and colorful and the raw beet had a wonderful flavor. We sprinkled feta cheese and sunflower seeds on it and dressed it with a balsamic vinaigrette. I loved it.

Growing Instructions:

-Beets like alkaline soil-ph between 6.7 to 7 which is great around here. They like a lot of organic material added to the soil. They require consistent moisture levels but can tolerate soils that are low in fertility.

-Beets can be started inside if you like or direct seed in early spring.

-Plant seeds every 1 inch, thinning to about every 4 inches after they are 4-5 inches tall to give them room to grow. Snip off the cuttings instead of pulling them to not disturb the remaining roots.

-For best flavor, beets like direct light and cool growing conditions which is perfect for a spring crop and fall crop. Put straw around base of plant in summer to keep roots cooler if you still have them.

-When harvesting, cut off the tops to within one inch and keep in refrigerator.

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