Beets – Beta vulgaris
Beetroots as they more commonly referred to in Europe are the taproot portions of the beet plant. It is a member of the goosefoot family as is Swiss chard and sugar beets. Beets have been around since the Middle Ages but the varieties similar to what we eat today came later.
Beets can be direct seeded now until the end of February and again in Fall. Beets are a root crop with beautiful dark red color but can be gold and white. We also enjoy the leafy beet green tops.
Beets will stand frost and should be planted in successive plantings at 20-day intervals until midsummer for continuous supply of beets. They require well prepared loamy soil which is neutral to alkaline. High potassium is needed for good root development. Good drainage is important. Plant in full sun in the ground or in large containers with lots of room for root growth.
Apply a complete fertilizer such as 10-10-10. Make sure the soil is fine in texture and easy to work. Sow seeds (which are really dried fruit) 1 inch apart and make rows 12 to 15inches apart. Keep seeds moist so they don’t dry out. Thin the seedlings 1-3 inches apart. 3inch beet leaves may be cooked as greens.
Keep weeds from rows and water to keep plants from becoming too dry to avoid fibrous and woody beets.
Harvest leaves at 6inches high but leave some smaller leaves on unharvested roots as they continue to develop. Harvest roots at about 1&1/2 to 2 inches, over 3 inches they become hard and woody.
Some varieties of beets recommended for our area are; Detroit Dark Red, Kestrel, Red Ace and Ruby Queen,
Beets not only taste good fresh from the garden but are good for your health. They are reported to contain important phytonutrients called betalains, which are a powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxifier. One cup of cooked and sliced beets, or one serving, contains just 75 calories and 34 percent of the recommended daily value of folate. Beet greens also contain a powerful supply of antioxidants, with up to 275 micrograms of the phytonutrient lutein in each cup of raw greens. Beet juice is said to lower blood pressure.
Beets may be eaten raw or cooked. Raw beets are crunchy and sweet, boil beets until tender and eat in green salads or with onions or plain, they may be eaten warm or cold. Red beets should be peeled after boiling as the red color bleeds on hands and counters and the red color will be lost in the boiling water. Add beets to smoothies for energy drinks.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat beets lightly with oil. Wrap beets in aluminum foil, place on a baking sheet, and roast in the oven until cooked through, fork tender or approximately 45 to 60 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool for 10 minutes, and then peel and slice into 1/4-inch thick slices. Drizzle with olive oil and some lemon juice, balsamic vinegar or whatever you like. Enjoy!
submitted by Karen Blackburn