Heirloom Golden Detroit Beet at Dust Bowl Seeds: High yield large orange round beet, non-bleeding, good bolt resistance, 55 days.
Beets are what I call a Two for One crop! The leaves are loCal and nutritious; the roots are a sweet treat with benefits of their own!
Companion Plants Beets, with their quick growing flat dense foliage are almost more a living mulch plant than a companion per se. If you don’t eat the leaves, 25% magnesium, add them to your compost! They help bush beans, but stunt pole beans and pole beans stunt them! Grow them with lettuce, onions, Brassicas – especially kohlrabi, and at the foot of peas. Garlic and mints help beets, garlic improving their flavor, speeding their growth. Rather than growing invasive mint with them, grow your mint in a container elsewhere, chop up bits of it and sprinkle it around your beetroots.
Like long winter radishes, Daikons, Danish heirloom Cylindra are their beet equivalent. They are orange like in the image at left, or that gorgeous crimson red that beets are known for! It is a perfect uniform slicing beet, aka “Butter Slicer”! The flesh is very tender, easy to peel if you want to, is sweet with wonderful texture. The root grows up to 6″ long but many harvest at 3-4″ for fresh eating. 55-60 days These seeds are at Urban Farmer, non GMO.
Mini & Monsters
- Little Ball (50 days; very uniform, small size; good shape; very tender; grows quickly to form smooth roots)
- Red Mammoth Mangels are monsters, grow up to 20 lbs and 2′ long! Though generally used to feed stock, harvested small, they are delicious. See images at Baker Creek Sustainable Seed Co
- Standard deep reds, scarlets! Ruby Queen is an AAS winner! Early; round, tender, sweet, fine-grained, attractive, uniform roots, 60 days. If you are growing for the color of the leaves, Bull’s Blood has amazing dark, dark red leaves! Pick early and there is no oxalic acid taste at all.
- Gourmet goldens stay tender-fleshed and particularly sweet and mild in taste, whether pulled very young or allowed to size up. 55 days. If you steam them with rice, the rice will look golden, like you cooked it with Saffron!
- Striped di Chioggia is a beautiful scarlet-red Italian heirloom with interior rings of reddish-pink and white. It germinates strongly, matures quickly, 50 days, and does not get woody with age!
GREENS There are varieties that produce an abundance of greens, but why not just grow Chard for greens?! What’s different about beets is they make those fine fat roots! If you keep cutting the greens you slow their production. When you harvest your beets, then eat those greens!
Planting Beets are closely related to Swiss chard – the seeds look alike, and spinach. Avoid following these crops in rotation. Grow beets in full sun; beets for greens can be grown in partial shade. Beets tolerate average to low fertility, but grow best in loose, well-drained soil; add aged compost to the planting beds and keep beds free of clods, stones, and plant debris. Too much nitrogen will encourage top growth at the expense of root development. Up to one third of the tasty beet greens can be harvested without damaging your plant, but if you want those beet roots, use less leaves, let your beets get their nutrition and grow quickly!
Seedlings are established more easily under cool, moist conditions. Start successive plantings at 3 to 4 week intervals until midsummer for a continuous supply. The beet “seed” is actually a cluster of seeds in a dried fruit. Several seedlings may grow from each fruit. See the sprouts at left? Two from one seed is no surprise. Some seed companies are now singulating the seed for precision planting, by dividing the fruit. Plant seeds about 1/2 inch deep and one inch apart. Allow 12 to 18 inches between rows.
Poor stands are often the result of planting too deeply or the soil’s crusting after a heavy rain. In fact, some gardeners don’t bury the seeds at all, but broadcast, throw them over an area, and let them do as and when they will. And they do! Seedlings may emerge at different times, making a stand of different sizes and ages of seedlings. Perfect for a gradual harvest!
You can tell when seedlings are up because the tiny stems are red if you planted red beets, yellow if you planted goldens!
Planting time Beets are a cool-season crop. Sow beets in the garden as early as 4 weeks before the last average frost date in spring. Succession crops can be planted every 2 weeks for a continuous harvest. In warm-summer regions, do not plant beets from mid-spring through mid-summer. Sow beets for fall harvest about 8 weeks before the average first frost date in fall. In mild-winter regions, beets can be sown until late autumn and can be left in the ground for harvest through the winter.
Avoid seeding during daytime temperatures of 80 degrees F, wait until it is cooler; can be planted until late summer.
Storage beets need to be planted early in the season to give them plenty of time to make full size. But, you know you could start a second crop of early maturing smaller beets just for fresh fall eating!
Care Do thin your beets! If you are using unseparated seed clusters to plant from, your beet seedlings commonly emerge in clusters. Hand thinning is almost always necessary. The most frequent cause for beet plants failing to develop roots is overcrowding. For best root development, thin about 2 to 3″ apart. When the first true leaves form, thin with small scissors leaving the strongest seedling. Definitely thin at 5″ tall or less! At 4 to 5″ tall you get to eat those little seedlings in your salad!
Weeding is important because tiny beets have only that little tap root that becomes the fat root. Clearly, deep, or just about any, cultivation is a no, no. Weeds rob beets of nutrients, moisture, and flavor. Keep beets evenly moist for quick growth and best flavor.
Mulch is perfect in summer to conserve soil moisture, prevent soil compaction and help suppress weed growth. Mulch in winter keeps soil cool, and growth is slowed down.
Beets are heavy feeders and need to be fertilized at planting time, as well as a month later. A fertilizer with the analysis of 5-10-10 can be applied when you plant your seeds, and again when the plants are about three inches high.
Beets, carrots, radish and turnips naturally push right up above the ground! Plant in low sloped mini trenches. That way the seeds stay more moist longer, germination per cent is better. When the beet root starts to get above the soil level pull the sides of the trench onto the beet root shoulders! You can see in the image how crowding, not thinning, adds to the problem. Exposed areas toughen and have to be peeled, losing nutrients packed in the skin. Harvest sooner and a bit smaller for fresh tender roots!
Pests & Diseases
Flea beetles, leaf miners, aphids and Cercospora leaf spot are the usual. Regular inspection of your plants can help deter a major pest infestation. If you have the patience, the use of floating row covers will offer nearly 100% protection.
Biodiversity You almost always see beets planted in rows. The damage from leafminers is, uh, downright ugly. Rather than letting them walk right down the row, plant to plant, try planting your beets in small clusters here and there among your other plants. Another simple remedy, if you have the space, is plant so no plant leaves touch another’s when they are mature. The tastiest remedy is to deliberately overplant then harvest the tiny tasties between, and keep thinning as they get larger! Remove infested leaves ASAP! Water a tad less so the leaves aren’t quite so soft and inviting.
Flea beetles have a season. If your plant is healthy and growing fast, it will probably be bitten temporarily, then do ok. There will just be a lotta tiny holes in those leaves.
Aphids. Keep watch, spray ’em away before they get out of control. Remove badly infested leaves. Check for ants, water a tad less.
Beets, Chard and Spinach get Cercospora leaf spot. Sadly, no resistant cultivars of table beet are known. Late fall or early spring plantings are most likely to be affected. Late summer when conditions are favorable (high temperatures, high humidity, long leaf wetness periods at night) is the worst. Beet roots fail to grow to full size when disease is severe. It grows on infected crop residues, so immediately remove leaves that collapse on the ground. It is carried by wind or rain to host leaves. This is one case where AM watering really makes sense to reduce humidity. Plant less densely for more airflow, thinning is tasty! Planting only every 3 years in the same spot isn’t possible if there is too little garden space, so cultivating, turning and drying the soil between plantings is good. See more
Harvest & Storage
Roots! Most varieties will mature within 55 to 70 days, but can be harvested at any time in their growth cycle. Young roots 1 1/2″ diameter can be harvested about 60 days after sowing. If you like them bigger, it won’t take much longer! After 3″, though, some can get tough.
Best color and flavor develop under cool conditions and bright sun. When beets mature in warm weather, they are lighter colored, have less sugar and have more pronounced color zoning in the roots. Fluctuating weather conditions produce white zone rings in roots. Lift spring beets before daytime temperatures average greater than 70°F. Start the fall harvest when daytime temperatures are consistently in the 50s. If you live in cold climes, Pull up the last of your beets before the ground freezes.
Cut the tops off the beets one inch above the roots, to retain moisture and nutrients avoid bleeding during cooking. Greens quickly draw moisture from the root greatly reducing flavor and the beets become shriveled. Beets store best at 32°F and 95 percent humidity for about a week, three weeks in an airtight bag. Do not allow them to freeze. Use beets while they are still firm and fresh. Or, store some as naturally fermented pickled beets, whole or sliced!
For longer storage, don’t wash the dirt off your root crops. Just let it dry, then brush it off as much as possible. Keep at temperatures near freezing and with high humidity to prevent wilting. If you can’t eat all those beet greens, tops, right away, freeze them and use them in soup stocks!
Greens are best fresh in salads when four to six inches tall, but mature sized leaves are plenty tasty steamed over rice. Add them to stews. Stir fry with olive oil and a tad of garlic! Remember, they will wilt with cooking, so gather a few extra!
Beets are biennials. Normally, they produce an enlarged root during their first season. Then after overwintering they produce a flower stalk. If they experience two to three weeks of temperatures below 45 F after they have formed several true leaves during their first season, a flower stalk may grow prematurely. If you are a seed saver, that is a lucky opportunity! Saving beet seeds is generally a two-year project because this biennial doesn’t flower and produce its seed clusters until the next growing season.
Tie the stalks to stakes when they become floppy, look for blossoms in June and July, harvest the seeds in August. if you want to speed the process a little, cut 4′ tall tops just above the root when the majority of flowering clusters have turned brown. Tops can be stored in cool, dry locations for 2-3 weeks to encourage further seed ripening. Strip off the seeds. When the seed clusters are thoroughly dry and brittle, they can be gently rolled to break them open. This will release the seed, usually 3 to 5 per cluster. LABEL the seed pack with name and year because beet & chard seeds look virtually the same! Beet seed will remain viable for about six years. Do a moonlight dance in gratitude!
Only let a single variety of beet, or chard, go to flower when you will be saving seeds. Beet seeds, being wind pollinated, have a talent for cross-pollination over distances of a mile or more. Many recommend a 2 mile separation distance. If you are in a community garden or and urban neighborhood, that means track your fellow gardeners to make sure they don’t have flowering beets or chard when you do.
Important tips per Everwilde Farms: ‘Beet plants must weather the winter in order to produce seed; in warmer climates, simply mulch the plants. In cooler climates, dig up the roots and store them in sand, without the roots touching, in a cool and humid location; plant them in early spring. In the spring, the plants will go to seed; wait until the seed heads are fully grown and dry before removing them. The seeds will readily come off the stems after they are completely dry. Store the seed in a cool, dry place for up to five years.’ You can see it is a lengthy, but worthy, process.
Nutrition and Benefits!
Beets have my admiration! Drinking beet juice may help to lower blood pressure in a matter of hours, boost your exercise time by 16%! Beets have betaine, a nutrient that helps protects cells, proteins, and enzymes from environmental stress. It’s an anti-inflamatory, protects internal organs, improves vascular risk factors, enhances performance, and likely helps prevent numerous chronic diseases. Beets have phytonutrients that help ward off cancer. Beet powder reduces cholesterol. Check out more details at whFoods.com.
Beets are high in folate and manganese. Folate is a B9 vitamin that helps strengthen neural tubes, reduces the risk of neural defects in babies, and can help prevent gray hair! Manganese helps your body with blood-clotting factors, sex hormones, bones and connective tissue. It helps with calcium absorption, carbohydrate and fat metabolism, blood sugar regulation, and that your brain and nerves function at optimal levels. Manganese is an integral part of the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase, that helps combat free radicals.
What makes beet greens unique is they are high in calcium and provide 25% of the daily magnesium we need, higher than turnip and mustard greens. Calcium is good for our bones, a gentle temperament, pain reduction. Magnesium is a mineral that maintains normal muscle and nerve function, keeps a healthy immune system, maintains heart rhythm, and builds strong bones.
Like other greens, they excel in Vitamins K and A. A is significant for eye health, prevents night blindness, strengthens your immune system, stimulating production of antibodies and white blood cells. The beta-carotene in vitamin A is a known antioxidant that fights free radicals, cancer and heart disease. Vitamin K has blood clotting properties, helps wards off osteoporosis, works with calcium to boost bone strength, and may also play a role in fighting Alzheimer’s disease. Beet greens have a higher iron content than spinach! And they are low in fat and cholesterol!
Comparison of Kale to Beet Greens. The comparison isn’t complete, so compare carefully to what is written here. Variety is good.
Practical cautions Beet greens contain unusually high levels of oxalic acid though far less than Spinach and Purslane. Oxalic acid is a chelating compound that binds to minerals like calcium, phosphorous, etc which are then expelled unused from the body. Oxalic crystals can cause kidney stones when eaten in large quantities for very long periods. Use with caution and keep your water intake up.
Because of the greens’ high vitamin K content, patients taking anti-coagulants such as warfarin are encouraged to avoid these greens. Beets tops increase K concentration in the blood, which is what the drugs are attempting to lower.
Since beetroots have the highest sugar content of all vegetables, sugar beets are second only to sugarcane in sugar production, eat your beetroots in moderation! Two to three times a week is fine.
Culinary Treats! When preparing your beets for cooking, wash them carefully to avoid breaking the skin. Breaks and tears allow color and nutritional value to escape. They can be cooked whole, then sliced or diced. Shred fresh or cooked and cooled into salads. Ferment. Beets are high in natural sugar and roasting brings out the natural sweetness. Borscht is a popular beet soup which can be served hot in winter and cold in summer. Beet Salsa! Cut your beets up into small bits, add sweet onion, apple cider vinegar, a touch of honey and some water. Pop the whole mix in the fridge and add to salads or eat alone as a tangy treat, dip! Substitute for spinach. Make beet smoothies! Put greens in soups, drinks, ravioli, pasta, on sandwiches, pizza, in omelets, stuffed in bread and puffs!
May your beets be sweet, beautiful and plentiful!
The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for our SoCal Santa Barbara CA USA, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara city community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are in a fog belt/marine layer area most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is. Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!