How to grow beets for optimal taste

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beets

Personally, I love beets. The texture, the deep purplish color, the sweet taste — I love it all. But a lot of people don’t. And all I have to say is, you don’t know what you’re missing.

For many in the gardening world, beet is synonymous with boring. However, beets are far from boring. They come in many shapes and sizes. You can get them in more than a dozen varieties in colors including red, purple, yellow, white and concentric or “candy-striped.” You can choose from a couple of different shapes — round or cylindrical. For a “boring” vegetable, there are a lot of options.

There’s a reason the National Garden Bureau declared 2018 the Year of the Beet. Although they aren’t the most popular vegetable, they contain important health benefits.

Health benefits

For starters, beets contain betalains, which have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and general detoxification properties in humans.

In recent years, beets have been marketed as a natural energy drink because of the dietary nitrates it contains. Once in the human body, these nitrates are converted to nitric oxide, which relaxes and dilates blood vessels, boosting energy and stamina.

Let me break it down for you. Beets are an excellent source of dietary fiber, folate, vitamins A and K and a good source of manganese, copper and potassium. And there are only 75 calories in every cup of sliced, cooked beets you eat.

Growing beets for best taste

Beets are a relatively easy-to-grow, cool-season crop that prefers full sun and well-drained soil. By catering to beets’ growing preferences, you can optimize taste.

  • Plant beets in early spring, so that their primary growth occurs during cooler weather with bright light. The best flavor and root color develop under these conditions. Warm weather beets have less sugar and poorer color.
  • Beets tolerate average to low soil fertility well. Soil that is too nitrogen-rich can actually encourage top growth at the expense of root development.

How to plant beets

Accounting for beets growing preferences, follow these steps to plant your beets:

  1. Start your garden when ground temperature reaches 50 F or start transplants 4 to 6 weeks earlier indoors.
  2. Make rows 12 to 18 inches apart.
  3. Plant seeds 3/4 inch deep, spacing them 1 inch apart.
  4. Provide at least 1 inch of water per week.
  5. Once your seeds begin to sprout, thin them to maintain 1 inch of space between plants.
  6. It will take seeds 50 to 100 days of growth before they are ready to be harvested and about 35 to 45 days for transplants.

Harvesting beets for best taste

Like many vegetables, harvesting at the right time affects them almost as much as optimizing planting conditions. Here are some harvesting tips to follow:

  • You may want to harvest beet leaves periodically, and you can as they reach sufficient size. However, be careful not to harvest the smaller, more tender leaves too frequently. This could lead to reduced root size and quality.
  • Harvest beets as soon as they are an inch or more in diameter. Younger beets usually have more flavor and aren’t as tough as those grown to full maturity.

Storing beets

If you’ve had a successful beet season, you may end up with more than you can eat right away. A 25-foot row can yield 25 to 30 pounds of beets. It’s a good thing beets are easy to store.

Beets can be stored for up to six months at temperatures just above freezing and relative humidity between 95 and 100 percent. Just remove the tops and only store the beetroots free of disease and injury.

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Sara is Farm and Dairy’s online content producer. Raised in Portage County, she earned a magazine journalism degree from Kent State University. She enjoys spending time with her daughter, traveling, writing, reading and outdoor recreation.

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