The Lowdown on Beets
Beets are tasty, sweet, and colorful. And speaking of color, they come in more than that deep passionate reddish purple you typically associate with this healthy, fiber-filled root vegetable. Beets also come in yellow, even white, just so cooks can have a little variety on the plate. While most beets are round with the wispy tail that keeps them anchored ever-so-gently in the soil, they can also be smallish and long, even slender. Incredibly hearty, growing beets is easy because they love cool seasons, have quick grow cycles, do well in northern climates, and can even survive frosts and nearly freezing temperatures.
6 Health Benefits of Beets | Healthy is as Hearty Does
All that fast-acting, cool climatizing beet activity makes for some terrific health benefits. Six reasons beets pack an unusual healthy punch include:
- Anti-cancer properties: The uber powerful phytonutrients that give beets their deep red/purple color help ward off cancer. According to studies, beetroot extract in drinking water reduced tumor formations in multiple organs in several animal models. Currently, beet ‘therapy’ is being studied as an anti-cancer treatment for human pancreatic, prostate, and breast cancers.
- Energy and stamina boost: Drinking beet juice prior to exercising increases stamina and endurance.
- Detoxification: Eating beets or drinking fresh beet juice helps the liver remove toxins and buildup.
- Fights Inflammation: Betaines found in beets have been known to reduce levels of certain inflammatory markers and are currently being studied as a nutrient to improve heart health.
- Lower blood pressure: It has been found that drinking beet juice lowers blood pressure in just a few hours and, in some studies, drops it by 4 to 5 points.
- Vitamin C and fiber rich: Besides being rich in fiber, beets are also loaded with vitamin C, potassium, and vitamin B folate, among many others.
Grow Beets Grow
Beets can be planted in the spring and fall, which makes them readily available as a fresh vegetable throughout much of the year. Because they like cool temperatures, it is important the soil be around 50 degrees when planting seedlings. Beets require plenty of sunlight so choose your garden space accordingly. By following the easy steps below for beet seed preparation and planting, you can enjoy this healthy vegetable in a few short weeks.
- We recommend growing beets from seeds as they don’t transplant well. Choose seed varieties for your region and check the number of days for them to mature. Buy enough packets for planting in seed clusters.
- Prepare the garden soil for 12 inch depths, making sure it is free of rocks. (Beets can also be grown in pots allowing the same depth.) Make sure the garden area you’ve selected gets plenty of sunlight and, if potassium poor, add bone meal for enrichment.
- Consider companion plants to surround your beets. They grow nicely with onions, lettuce, broccoli, bush beans (with the exception of runner beans) and lettuce as neighbors.
- Since beet seeds are tough, we recommend soaking overnight. Just make sure you plant them the following day.
- After hoeing a row, water soil thoroughly and plant seeds in seed clusters about 1/2 inch apart, 1 to 2 inches deep.
- Keep the row consistently moist for approximately 3 to 5 days. If the ground gets too dry, lay burlap over the seeds and water. The burlap will trap moisture seeds need for proper germination; remove burlap once sprouted.
- Once sprouted, thin them to about 3 inches apart so roots have room to develop.
- As stems begin to grow, keep them sufficiently watered and weeded. If roots become exposed, add mulch for cover.
- Most beet varieties grow quickly, maturing in about 6 to 8 weeks. Plant a new crop every 2 to 3 weeks for ongoing production.
TLC Beet Care
So your beets seedlings are up, thinned, and thriving. Once beets are approximately 2 inches high, pinch off multiple sprouts from the top (not the bottom) to prevent choking. When plants are established, thin to 3 to 4 inches ratios between plants. Continue to water and mulch your beets as they grow. Optimal moisture should not allow wet soil near the beets to stick to your finger when inserted at 1 inch depths. Remember, too, beet’s shallow roots can be disturbed easily so cultivate and weed gently.
Controlling Those Pesky Pests
Pests are common interlopers in gardens with some of them attacking specific plants such as beets. The single most important thing a gardener can do to keep most pests away is to weed regularly. Wood ash sprinkled around plant bases can keep out certain pests like cutworms who love beets. Dusting with Sevin or rotenone can control or eliminate flea beetles, the cabbage looper, blister beetles, armyworms and grasshoppers. Tell-tale signs that pests are infesting your beet crop include seedlings eaten near soil level, tiny irregular holes chewed in leaves, etc. In the case of blister beetles, the whole leaves will be eaten. Pick up off any visible slugs, bugs, beetles or worms and dust with the pesticide of choice for your area of the country.
Let the Beet Feast Begin: Harvesting
Novice gardeners may not know it but beet greens can be eaten as well as the root. In fact, the greens are so rich in some nutrients, they outflank some of their vegetable companions. For example, there’s more iron in beet greens than spinach, pound for pound. Vitamin K is another massively rich nutrient found in beet greens, with a staggering 774% concentration--more than just about any other vegetable. And these are just a few of the benefits of the leafy green stems. They are also rich in Vitamins A, C, E, and most of the B vitamins. Plus, mineral-rich beet greens are loaded with potassium, magnesium, manganese, calcium, phosphorous and zinc, among others.
Harvesting Beet Greens
Best when small and tender, once the beet greens reach between 2 to 3 inches (but no larger than 4 to 5 inches,) clip them off with scissors to ensure some leaves remain while the roots continue growing. Since beet greens don’t keep for long even refrigerated, it’s best to eat them within a day, no more than 2, after clipping.
Harvesting Beet Roots
Beet roots are ready for harvest when they are approximately 1 to 3 inches in diameter. Pull gently from the soil or dig them out, leaving an inch of leaf structure on top to keep beet intact for storage. Wash in cool water so your beets last for a number of months and still taste as fresh as the day you harvested them.