Beets are a deliciously versatile vegetable. They’re grown for both their roots and their leaves (greens). The beetroot is often eaten fresh, boiled, or pickled; the greens are added to salads or steamed. A cousin, the sugar beet, is used as both animal food and to make sugar and molasses. Natural red dye can be extracted from conventional red beets.
Beets are great sources of vitamin C and folic acid, and they also contain potassium.
Ideal growing conditions
Like most root crops, beets prefer well-cultivated, light soil that has been enriched with compost, and that has good drainage. Beets prefer cool temperatures; they can be grown in sun or partial shade.
To improve germination, you can soak the seeds in warm water for 10-15 minutes before planting them. Direct sow them about an inch deep and 2 inches apart, as soon as the soil has warmed. As each seed produces multiple seedlings, you will need to thin them so that each seedling has adequate room to grow. Enjoy the tender greens of the thinned beets! You can repeat sowings every couple of weeks until the onset of summer.
Beets may benefit from a high nitrogen compost. Do not water them excessively.
Beets come in a variety of shapes and colours, including red, white, golden, and striped colours, and bulbuous and cylindrical shapes. Their leaves may be solid green or green with red stems and veins.
Harvesting, using, and preserving
In the fall, pull the beets from the ground, of lift them using a garden fork. To store them as is, twist the tops off a few inches from the root, then keep them in a location that has high humidity and a temperature of around 0 degrees Celsius.
Before you can freeze or pickle beets, or enjoy them as part of a meal, you must cook them. Here’s how:
- Twist or cut the tops off close to the root.
- Immerse beets in a large pot of water and boil until the largest beet is tender in the middle (use a knife to test).
- Drain the hot water from the pot.
- Put the hot beets under the cold water tap, or in a bowl of ice water.
- Using your thumb and forefinger, push on the beet skin. It should come off easily.
- Enjoy! Try them in borscht, or add them to cake, to which they add moisture, colour, and sweetness.
- They get along with pretty much everything!
- During Roman times, beets were used as aphrodisiacs. They contain (and need) large amounts of boron, which is used in the production of human sex hormones.
- Beets can be used to make wine.