Known also as beetroot or table beet, this vegetable is a member of the Amaranthaceae family and is believed to have descended from “sea beets,” which did not possess a taproot and could be found all along the coastlines of Great Britain, Europe, the Mediterranean, Asia, and the Middle East. Unlike its ancestor, this popular garden staple produces large taproots in addition to its edible leafy greens. These roots come in a variety of colors such as white, orange, yellow and the more commonly recognized deep purple to red. Beets can be harvested at any size, but remember that allowing them to grow more than a few inches in diameter can result in the root becoming woody and unpalatable.
The Early Wonder Tall Top beet is an heirloom variety that’s extremely popular in the US thanks to its deep red color, tasty tall greens, and durability when being pickled. If sowing many seeds, expect staggered maturity in your plants; a blessing in disguise as this can mean fresh beets all summer long from just one sowing!
Seed Depth: 1/2″
Space Between Plants: Thin to 4″
Space Between Rows: 1–2′
Germination Soil Temperature: at least 50°F
Days for Germination: 7–14
Sow Indoors: 6 weeks before average last frost date. Be sure to transplant them to their final location while still young for best results.
Sow Outdoors: 2–4 weeks before average last frost date. 10–12 weeks before average first frost date for a fall crop.
In zones with low moisture and rainfall, early crops should be planted in March/April and late crops anytime from June through September. Successive plantings are also possible as long as the weather doesn’t exceed 75°F. Beets may be grown as a winter crop in USDA Zones 9 and higher due to their preference for
Natural: Full sun to partial shade.
Artificial: Fluorescent and LED lamps will help your indoor beet plants grow.
Soil: Prefers well-drained loamy or sandy soil. A pH of 6.0 to 6.5 is best for keeping plants healthy and nourished. If soil has too much clay, mixing in organic material or well-rotted manure can help create a better beet-growing environment.
Soilless: Germinate seeds in a soilless mix of vermiculite, well-rotted manure, and compost.
Hydroponic: Will grow well in a hydroponics system using sand as a growing media.
Water: Requires moderate levels of water. Aim for 1″ of water per week, increasing as necessary based on natural precipitation and temperature.
Nutrients: While beets are not generally nutrient-hungry, a light compost or fertilizer can help foster growth. Be careful not to overload your plants with nitrogen as this can cause the leaves to grow expansively and can stunt bulb growth.
Foliar: Aside from the more conventional foliar sprays of compost tea or fish emulsion, certain studies have shown that applications of amino acids and yeast can also improve beet plant health.
Pruning: When plants reach about 2″, be sure to thin them to their final spacing by pulling shoots from the ground. Thinnings may be replanted if desired or eaten as baby greens.
ROTATION: A 3- to 4-year rotation away from all plants in the goosefoot family is recommended. Plant beets after deep-rooted crops like peppers, tomato, or squash, or after heavy feeding plants like members of the brassica family. Do not plant beets after corn. Follow beets with legumes to replenish soil nitrogen.
Companions: Grows well with bush beans, most members of the cabbage family, corn, leek, lettuce, lima bean, onion, and radish. Avoid mustard greens and pole beans.
Harvest: The large, flavorful greens of this variety of beet are considered to be particularly tasty and can be harvested at any time for either baby greens or mature greens. The roots tend to reach full maturity at around 55 days. Don’t allow mature beets to experience a deep frost, as this will reduce their storage time.
Storage: While the greens may only least for a few days stored in the refrigerator, the bulbs may be kept up to a week in the refrigerator once the tops have been cut off. If you have the option to store them in a root cellar with consistently cool temperatures, they can last for several months, though be sure to check in frequently. Pack them in sand or sawdust, or store in clean boxes in a single layer.
Seed Saving: To save beet seed, keep different varietals at least 1/4–1/2 mile apart to prevent them from cross-pollinating. If living in a climate with mild winters, leave one or two beets in the soil with a light layer of mulch on top to overwinter. If living in a cooler climate, remove the beet, cut the greens back to 1–2″, and plant in a pot to be brought indoors. Come spring, replant your beet and allow it to flower. Once the flowers have died off, you should be left with dry stalks covered in seed. Clip the entire stalk and bring indoors to dry further in a warm, dry location. Once totally dry, thresh the seeds and store in an airtight container.
Preserve: Can be preserved a variety of ways, from freezing to pickling. If freezing beets, first cook them until a fork slides through easily. Cut the beets into cubes and pack them into freezer bags. Follow any standard beet pickling recipe to keep beets for a tasty mid-winter treat. Beets may also be kept fresh in a root cellar if available by using clean dry sand and a wooden crate or box. Pack trimmed, unwashed beets in boxes, placing a layer of sand in between beet layers.
Prepare: All beets can be prepared by roasting, steaming, boiling, or grating raw into salads.
Nutritional: Both the root and greens of beets are packed with nutrients and healthy compounds such as vitamin C, glycine betaine, and folates. The root in particular is also a great source of vitamin B, iron, manganese, copper, and magnesium.
Medicinal: Based on all the exciting nutrients and minerals in beets, it’s no surprise that they have been cited as helpful in lowering blood pressure, improving overall cardiac health, and treating liver diseases.
While their roots are usually the star of the show, beet greens are absolutely delicious! Don’t believe us? Try out this simple, Sautéed Beet Greens recipe and let your taste buds tell you otherwise!