In my opinion beets are an underrated vegetable. Until recently my only introduction to beets had been plain old pickled beets, which I loved, but with which I had gotten a little bored. A few years ago a friend of mine turned me on to roasted beets and I’ve been in beet heaven ever since! Just chop cleaned beets with skin on, for extra nutrients; season with salt, pepper & garlic; drizzle with olive oil & roast uncovered on 375 until tender. For an extra treat, chop an onion in large pieces to roast with the beets. They are delicious when prepared this way! Roasted beets pair well with goat and feta cheeses in salads or as a spread. An extra treat from growing your own beets is that you can eat the greens they produce. Toss them in a salad or do a quick sauté and you can double the value of this nutritious veggie.
Grow When the Time is Right
Have I convinced you to grow beets yet? Well if I have, here’s how. Beets are a cool weather crop which can be planted here in early fall or towards the end of winter. This means our next window for planting will be late December – mid January. This gives you time to go out and find some really cool seed varieties.
Growing beets yourself provides opportunity to sample a variety of different colors and tastes. Touchstone Gold is a beautiful golden beet grown for its lovely color as well as taste. If you really want something striking, try Chioggia. When sliced open, you’ll be delighted to find red and white rings, which is the reason many people refer to this one as the candy cane beet. For dramatic, deep burgundy leaves, go for Bull’s Blood. Despite the morbid name, it’s quite a delight.
Now once you’ve decided which one’s you’ll grow, let’s get the planting down. For best germination, soak beet seeds overnight before planting. Create a 1 inch trench in the soil and drop the seeds about 2-3 inches apart. This will give them room to grow. Cover lightly with soil or compost and water gently. Keep moist until you see the leaves begin to poke through the soil in 1-3 weeks. Seeds germinate faster in warmer soils. Gradually reduce watering after germination. Move to every other day and then a few times a week.
Water and nutrient-rich soil are critical for good beet production. Avoid letting the soil dry out and when the tops get about 6 inches tall apply a high-nitrogen fertilizer such as hoof and horn meal. If your bed is fairly new, I would mix in a high-nitrogen fertilizer before planting too. If you notice little holes in the leaves flea beetles may be the culprit, so apply an organic insecticide. Otherwise, beets have very few pests.
Beets are generally ready to eat in about 55 days, but you can begin harvesting leaves in about a month when they reach about 6 inches or higher. Smaller beets are more tender, so feel for those that are about 2 inches around. Wash and refrigerate right away if you are not going to prepare them immediately.
Now that’s the way to beet up a garden!
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