Beet

How to Grow Beets:

Beet, growing beets, home grown beets, organic beets, The Beetroot is in the same family of Swiss chard and spinach as well as the sugar beet, which produces 30-35% of the world’s table sugar. The beet originated in the regions around the Mediterranean. Remains of the beetroot have been found in the Pyramids of Thebes, Egypt, dating before 3000 BC. From records, we also know the beet was grown in ancient Rome, Greece and during medieval times in Europe.

Because the beet is in the Swiss chard and spinach family, both the greens and the roots are commonly eaten, and a great addition to the dinner table. You can cook them both or eat them both raw in a salad.

Planting and Growing Beets:

Beet, growing beets in the garden, home grown beets, the best home grown beetsBeets need deep, loose organic soils. Their roots can grow over 3 feet deep! Prepare soil once in the fall by turning rich compost 12 to 18 inches deep, trying not to disturb the subsoil.  Do not rototill as this leaves a compact layer of soil which roots may not penetrate.  If soil has been prepared with good, organic compost, you will not likely need to fertilize, but if you do, be sure not to add much nitrogen. Dress with one low, nitrogen, moderate phosphorus and potassium.

Beets can be started indoors 3 to 4 weeks before transplanting, or directly sowed in the garden.  Sow a few beet seeds per cell or hole, half an inch deep (13 mm). For higher yields, sow beets in a diamond pattern rather than parallel, rows 4 inches apart (10 cm).  Also, don’t plant all your seeds at the same time.  Instead, plant seeds or transplants every two weeks starting a month before the last frost date or when the soil temperatures are 65 degrees F (18 degrees C).  Do this until the last frost date for a continuous harvest of fresh beets.

Thin the seedlings once they pop through the soil. Don’t pull the unwanted plants, instead use a pair of scissors and cut the smallest plants, leaving the larger and healthiest seedlings. Use the cut greens in a salad instead of throwing them out.

For early sowing, use a row cover to warm soil temperatures and help jump start beet growth. Support the row cover with wire or PVC hoops, keeping it off the ground and plants to protect the tender seedlings.  This method can also be used for a fall planting by installing the row cover around the first frost date.

Beets taste best when they have cool, soil temperatures.  To achieve this ideal growing condition, insulate the soil by spreading a good compost or mulch 2 to 3 inches deep around the beet plants.  Do this after soil temperatures have reached ideal levels no higher than 75 degrees F (24 degrees C). Mulching will also keep even moisture levels, which beets need for high quality taste and size.

To grow beets for the greens, rather than the root, sow plants 2 inches (5 cm) apart.  Keep in mind that harvesting the leaves will stunt the root growth.

Harvesting and Preserving Beets:

Beets will need about 50-60 days to mature. Smaller beets are tastier than large beets. Harvest beets when they are 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8 cm) in diameter or between the size of a golf ball and baseball (or cricket ball).  If you harvest overgrown beets, they will be of a woody texture and not palatable.

When digging up the plants be sure not to damage the roots. Moisten the soil and let it soak for a while to make sure it is nice and loose. Using a garden fork, loosen the soil 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) around the plants.  Press the fork straight down and lift up.  Then, pull the beets by hand.  If you do damage any roots, use them right away. Save the unblemished ones for preserving.

Harvest the leaves for salads and cooking at the same time you dig the beets.  The beets will store much longer than the leaves, so plan to use them right away.

Root storage:

If you plan to store them for winter, leave the plants in the ground until late fall.  Early frosts will not hurt them. Harvest the beets on a nice day and cut the tops about a fingers-width from the root. Brush off dirt and roots and lay in the sun for a day. Bury roots in a box or bag filled with sawdust, making sure to have 2-4 inches (5-10 cm) of sawdust surrounding them on each side.  Place them in a root cellar or unheated room for storage, until spring.

Freezing:

Freezing is a good method of preserving beets. First, cut off the tops close to the beet and wash them thoroughly. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F (204 degrees C).  Place the beets on the rack and cook until they are tender. Cook time depends on the size of the beets, but check after about 45 minutes. Cool the beets quickly by placing them in a sink or a pot full of cold water so that their skins slip off. Then, cut the beets into slices and place in freezer bags. You can add butter and any seasonings you desire to the bag, press the air out and seal. Let the beets cool well before putting them in the freezer.

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