Sunday, June 3, 2012
Beets ancestor is chard. Chard has been around for thousands of years. It is thought that a mutation of spinach resulted in the thick ribs of chard. Beets were cultivated for their thickened root. They are a biennial and sometimes a perennial.
Beets can be sown from early spring when the daffodils bloom into June. The beet seed is actually a fruit containing a cluster of seeds. When you plant, expect to have to thin to 2-4” apart.
I grow beets in pots. Potting soil is loose which beets really like. If planting in the ground, loosen the soil. If you want a dedicated plot to beets and carrots, adding sand to the soil provides the perfect growing spot.
The secret to great beets is consistency in water and fertilizer. If growing in a pot, apply a balanced fertilizer weekly. Letting the soil get too dry will result in a woody beet.
The root and the leaves are both edible. Beet thinnings are tasty in salads. You can take up to one third of the beet greens without harming the beet. As the beet ages, the greens get stronger. If too strong for taste raw, they can be steamed like spinach or chard.
Beets should be pulled when they are 1.5” in diameter up to 3” in diameter. Before storing, cut the greens from the root, leaving only an inch or two of stalk. The leaves will wilt well before the beet shrivels. Beets keep in the frig 2-3 weeks. Beets can be roasted, grilled or steamed.
There are different types and colors of beets. There are round beets and beets that resemble carrots. The oldest round variety that is a deep red will bleed on anything it is cooked with. The round Chioggia beet comes in a pink and red with intermittent rings of color and white. They are quite cool looking when sliced and don't bleed. The cylindrical beet gives about 4 times the harvest in a pot since it grows down.