Nothing Beats Growing Beets

 

A Little History – Don’t Beet Me DownMedieval suit of armor.

Somewhere during the Medieval period – between 400 A.D. and 1500 A.D. – beets were being employed to cure a number of digestive and blood ailments.

These red taproots – also called beetroot – were also believed to be able to cancel out garlic breath.  So, they were added to a variety of garlic-y dishes.

In the mid 1800’s, beet juice was the coloring of choice for wine – to give it a very distinctive, dark red appearance.

Beet colored wine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being “Up-beet” About Beets’ Nutritional Value

Mostly water – 87.5% – with a smattering of carbohydrates – 9.5% – beets are full of countless other nutrients including: a host of B vitamins, protein, Vitamin C, and a ton of minerals.

From providing increased endurance – to reducing both blood pressure and heart disease – beets are a healthy addition to any diet.

An “Off-beet” Tip

Commode sign

If you eat red beets and see something red in the commode when you go to the bathroom – stay calm – it isn’t blood, it is beet juice.  Betanin, the red color component of beets, can’t be broken down by your body’s digestive system and is passed as waste.

Oddly enough, betanin is also used to commercially improve the flavor and color of many desserts, candies, cereals, jellies, ice cream – and even tomato paste and sauces.

 

I Don’t Want To “Beet” A Dead Horse – But…

Sugar beets

Did you know that there is a difference between “beets”, known also as beetroot, and “sugar beets?”

Beetroot, the vegetable, is eaten like any other vegetable.  They are either red or golden yellow colored.

Sugar beets are grown to make beet sugar.  They are white – and larger than the beetroot veggie.  They kinda taste like a sugar-coated potato.

 

Eating This Veggie Can’t Be “Beet”

Salad with beets.

Eaten raw in a salad, along with other ingredients, is a great way to get all the nutritional benefits of beets.  You see them offered in most restaurants that have salad bars for you to make a salad the way you want it.

Pickled beets are very common in North America.  Eggs are often pickled along with them – giving the eggs a beautiful dark red color and adding a uniquely “beet-y” flavor.  Adding eggs is a twist added by the Pennsylvania Dutch.

Borscht - beetroot soupMany Europeans love borscht – which is actually just beet soup.

In India, a side dish of spiced beet is an everyday thing.  I regular see it offered at Indian buffet restaurants.

Did you know that beet leaves can be eaten?  Raw baby leaves can be directly added to salads.  Mature leaves are mostly boiled or steamed – and they have a taste and feel just like cooked spinach.

Boiled beets with garlic butter.

I like to boil beets and add a generous coating of garlic butter.  Can’t “beet” that with a stick!

Ever heard of an Australian hamburger?  A nice, thick slice of beetroot is oftentimes added to an all-beef patty, along with a number of other flavorful additives.  Bite into one of these burgers – and, your heart will skip a “beet.”

How about this?  Make yourself a beet burger.  Throw some cooked quinoa, a couple of eggs, black beans, and beets into a food processor – add a few flavor enhancers – maybe garlic salt or rosemary – whatever you like.  Shape the blend into bun-sized patties and bake them in a 300 degree oven for about 30 minutes or so.  Now you can savor a great fleshy looking and tangy veggie burger!  I like mine a bit spicier so, I hit it with a few drops of Tabasco sauce.

Ever make your own potato chips?  Try making beet chips.  Sprinkle with a bit of olive oil – salt to taste – and put them in the same oven to cook alongside your veggie burgers.  The same method can be used to make beet French fries!

 

Drum-beet Please – ‘Cause Here Come My Growin’ Favorites

Leading the pack is:

Beets - Early Wonder seeds
Early Wonder seeds
Beets - Early Wonder seed tape
Beets – Early Wonder seed tape

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Early Wonder – Hard to “beet”, the sweetness is not only in the taproot but also in the leaves.  So, eat the whole darn thing!  These red beets can be frozen – and, once thawed, you will find that they have held their flavor well.  Matures in 55 to 60 days.  Early Wonder seeds are available loose – and also on a seed tape – spaced about 2 inches apart.  Just lay the seed tape in the furrow and cover with dirt – a no-brainer.

 

Coming in a close second are:

Detroit Dark Red Medium Top
Detroit Dark Red Med Top
Burpee - Merlin
Burpee – Merlin
Burpee - Golden
Burpee – Golden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Detroit Dark Red Medium Top – These sweet, fleshy, dark red orbs are un-beet-able!  Pick them when they are immature for the sweetest possible taste – this will also speed up the growth of the other beet plants.  They’ll be ready for you in 59 days – from seed to serving on the plate!

Merlin – I’ve been asked, “What is the sweetest beet I’ve ever grown?”  My answer?  This one!  For a red beet, in the vegetable category, Merlin has the highest sugar content.  Great in salads – or as a side dish for meat and fish – this variety is also very resistant to leaf spot fungus.  They also have the shortest growth cycle – ready for you in 48 days.

Golden – A sweet beet with a somewhat milder flavor, this golden yellow sphere is not only gorgeous it won’t leave a telltale stain on your hands during preparation – like the red beets will.  In just 55 days, you can find that out for yourself.

 

Beet-ing The Bushes

Growing beets are as simple and uncomplicated as falling off a log.

You know the basic drill:  full sun for at least 6 to 8 hours a day and soil that drains well.

More specifically, beets aren’t too happy about acidic soils – so, make sure your soil pH is somewhere between 6.0 and 7.0 – to make them happy.  They also do better when temperatures don’t reach the scorching summer heat and high humidity of the South.  If this is a possibility, you may want to plant them in an area that gets partial shade.

I prefer running my seeds through the germination, transplanting, and hardening off steps prior to lining them up in a garden row.  If you follow this process, start about 6 weeks before planting the seedlings in your backyard plot.  Germination will take a couple of weeks – followed by transplanting which adds another 2 weeks under the grow lights.  And, finally a 2 week hardening off regimen.

Beet seedling transplant.

  • Till the soil.
  • Make a nice, straight row furrow 2 inches deep.
  • Line the bottom of the furrow with a one inch layer of Jim’s 50/50 soil mixture.
  • Place seeds an inch apart in each row – and cover them with a half inch of Jim’s soil mixture. The Early Wonder seed tape spaces the seeds about 2 inches apart – so, just lay the tape down in the furrow and cover with Jim’s soil concoction.
  • Or – dig a hole twice the size of the root ball to place plants 3 inches apart – adding some soil mix to cover the plant base.
  • Keep the beet rows a foot apart.
  • If you planted seeds – wait until the seedlings are a couple inches tall and thin them to 3 inches apart.
  • If you planted Early Wonder using the seed tape – eyeball the seedlings to ensure they are thinned to roughly the 3 inch mark – but, don’t get crazy pulling out any healthy looking seedling plants just because you think the spacing is critical – 3 inches is just a “rule of thumb.”
  • Water thoroughly – and ensure that your beets get at least an inch of water a week. TIP:  Simple rain gauges can help determine if your plants need a drink.
  • Soaker hoses are the best bet to keep plants from getting thirsty and to combat diseases that can occur with overhead watering.
  • Be sure to add mulch around the plants and the rows to help retain moisture and reduce weed growth.

 

Nothing “Beets” Harvesting

Beet leaves are edible.

Start picking leaves when they get about 4 inches long.  At this time, the beet taproots will be a little less than 2 inches wide.

At the same time you start picking some leaves, you can also pull a few taproots.  These are baby beets and they are a little sweeter now – than they will be after they’ve matured.

If you want mature beets, let them get about 3 inches in diameter before pulling them up.

TIP:  Peeled beets will bleed a lot when cooked.  If don’t want them to bleed, cook them BEFORE you peel them and trim off the smaller root shoots.  Besides, after cooking and cooling, their skins will slip off easily just using your fingers.

 

Caution – They Will Get “Beet” Up

Yes, many common everyday plant destroyers are also ready and waiting to assault beet plants, too.

aphid

Pests like the beet webworm, the vegetable weevil, and those tiny little aphids can decimate a healthy beet plant in a New York minute!  Nail them with a healthy helping of Ortho Flower, Fruit and Vegetable Insect Killer.  It will drive them away and your plants will thank you!

Several of the most common diseases for lettuce, spinach, kale, potatoes will also attack beet plants.  By name, those would be downy mildew, powdery mildew, and fusarium.  Hit them with a top-notch fungicide like Daconil or Physan 20 to keep them at bay.

TIP:  If critters or diseases get the best of a beet plant – and the plant can’t be rejuvenated – pull the entire plant up by the roots before it infects its neighbors, bag the dying plant, and pass it along to your weekly trash pickup professional.  Do not introduce it to your compost pile or your own yard waste area.  If you do, you will be sorry for it next year – I guarantee it!  Mistakes like these have a tendency to come back and haunt you – even when it’s not Halloween!

 

A Tribute With A Down-“Beet”

Here’s a little song – I think it’s called, “Beet” Me Daddy – Eight To The Bar.

By the Andrews Sisters…

Well, maybe it was actually “Beat” Me Daddy…

Happy Beet

Enough of the “Beet” puns – whatcha think about growing some beets?  Makes me wanna go right out and get started.

I’d love some comments and emails.  So, don’t forget!

 

Jim, the Lifelong Gardener

jim@perfect-vegetable-garden.com

16 thoughts on “Nothing Beats Growing Beets

  1. jessie palaypay Reply

    I would definitely like to try the beet soup that most Europeans like. It actually looks pretty appetizing from the picture.

    Also, you mentioned protecting your beets from webworms and aphids by using an insect killer. Should I be concerned about pesticides when it comes to consuming beets that were sprayed with insect killing spray? 

    • Jim Reply

      Hi Jessie,

      European borscht is pretty tasty – I have to admit.  I like to use hot sausage in mine – with a dollop of sour cream and a few sprigs of fresh parsley!

      As long as the pesticide or insecticide used conforms to EPA guidelines – and the veggies are washed well, there is normally not an issue.  The same holds true with fungicides for plant diseases.  But, I can’t stress enough that you should always – always – follow all label directions – to the letter!

      Jim

  2. Jenny Reply

    I love your article! Especially the “beet” part. 

    I love eating beetroots, I tried growing a couple of times, but it was a disaster. To be honest, I didn’t try very hard. I just watered them when I remembered to. I know, I’m a disaster… That’s why I decided to do a little research this time. 

    Reading this, I realize that I put too many plants in too little soil.

    Thanks for the tips. I’ll follow your advice and hopefully, I’ll eat my own beetroots soon. 

    • Jim Reply

      Hi Jenny,

      I hope that you find my tips hard to “beet.”

      When you make another try at growing them – hopefully, you won’t skip a “beet.”  But, if you do have any problems, let me know.  I assure you – that I won’t feel “beet-en down.”

      🙂

      Jim

  3. Holly Reply

    Jim, I LOVE your site.  I enjoy gardening very much and your tips are extremely helpful.  My husband and I have not grown beets in our personal garden but a family member of mine has had great success with them.  Matter of fact, we have a canned jar of beets waiting for us to eat right now! 

    You have written this beautifully, thrown in humor and what’s best, you can tell that you absolutely love the subject you are writing about and know exactly what you’re speaking of.  Job well done.  I will certainly be a repeat visitor. 

    • Jim Reply

      Hi Holly,

      I’m glad to hear that you are so up-beet about my tips.  Nothing beets a canned jar full of this wonderful veggie!

      I love gardening – and everything associated with it.  And, my goal is to make some converts to the wonderful world of growing veggies and offer as much information as I can – and make the learning as much fun as I can.

      Glad to have you on board as a kindred spirit!

      Jim

  4. Holly Reply

    By the way, just as a side note from my last comment, I love the song 🙂 That’s pretty darn catchy!

    • Jim Post authorReply

      It is a great song! The Andrews Sisters recorded it in 1940 – a year before they recorded their famous “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” classic.

      The last of the sisters, Patty, finally passed away about 5 years ago – at the ripe old age of 94.

      Jim

  5. Karin Nauber Reply

    While I can’t say that I “love” or even “like” beets, your “up-beet” article about them was a joy to read! I am always looking for healthy alternatives to help with physical maladies!

    I think I am most familiar with pickled beets which I see around here. While I love pickled herring, I do not love pickled beets! I wonder if I had raw beets if I would enjoy them more? I will have to try this. I see them sold at a variety of stores and my parents always grow them. I do love a good bowl of borscht, though. I have a similar love/hate relationship with apples, too. I love a raw apple or apple crisp, but apple juice or apple cider or apple sauce—yuck! 🙂

    It appears they are very easy to grow. With the short growing season we have where I live, it looks like beets would be ideal. 

    Do you know if the beet has any value in helping with type 2 diabetes? As for the Andrews Sisters song—”Beet” Me Daddy or “Beat” Me Daddy. You can tell that was was written a while back! 🙂

    • Jim Reply

      Hi Karin,

      Glad to hear you enjoyed my article!

      I’m not much of a pickled herring fan – but, I do pickle beets and eggs together.  Yum!

      Talking about borscht makes my mouth water.  I love it!

      Beets have been known to be helpful in healing nerve damage suffered by diabetics.

      The Andrews Sisters recorded “Beat Me Daddy – Eight To The Bar” back in 1940 – a year before they recorded their famous WWII song, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”  Words and descriptions were much different 75 plus years ago. 

      The nuance behind “Beat Me Daddy’ deals with the fact that the song is about a piano player who is pounding on piano keys – playing music that is timed “Eight To The Bar” on the sheet of music.  Those were much more innocent times than we have now.  People didn’t look for so many “hidden meanings.”

      Jim

      • Karin Reply

        Yes, the music was so different then. One of my favorites from that era was the Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy!
        I have a lot of nerve damage in my feet and legs and now in my hands from diabetes. I think I might have to choke a few beets down now and then!
        Have a great day!

        • Jim Post authorReply

          Glad I convinced you to give them a try, Karin. Remember, you can’t “beet” them!

          🙂

          Jim

  6. Nicki V Reply

    What a fun article on beets! I love pickled beets personally, and I love how you mentioned about the Aussie’s adding beets to their burgers.  When I was in Australia about two years ago, I tried a kangaroo burger for the first time.  If you haven’t had one before, it’s basically BBQ kangaroo strips with a bit of lettuce and pickled beets.  The beets were a really nice touch…it was also really tasty!

    Does pickling changing any of the nutrition of the beets or are they just as nutritious?

    • Jim Reply

      Hi Nicki,

      I actually discovered this unique approach of adding beets to hamburgers on a trip to Australia – more years ago than I care to mention.

      Another exceptional sandwich I had – I called an Australian breakfast.  It was basically a toasted melted cheese sandwich with generous slices of pineapple on it.  It didn’t sound too appetizing – but, after I tried one – I had to eat 2 more!  I still make them.

      Jim

  7. Sam Reply

    Timely since this summer I have decided to eat a whole lot healthier and exercise. Beetroot is one of my favourites but I did not know you could eat the baby leaves and or boil the mature leaves and eat them also. Awesome! Always satisfying when you know what goodness is going into your body and the natural benefits they provide.

    Whats even better is you have instructions about how i can grow them. I have already grown Pak Choy, Lettuce and Spinach and already harvested and eaten them. I look forward to trying to grow beets, potatoes and sweet potatoes soon too. 

    • Jim Reply

      Hi Sam,

      Glad to know that you learned something new about beetroot.  Yes, those leaves are quite edible – as are many different veggie leaves.  You just have to know which ones.

      A side note…

      You do know that you can eat your potato leaves, too.  They taste best stir fried with a little olive oil and garlic salt.

      But, if you eat tomato leaves, just eat a few at a time – they contain tomatine – which is a bit toxic to humans.

      Jim

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