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 Chioggia, or Bassano, beet is an heirloom Italian variety that possesses red and white rings on the inside of the root. This pattern kinda looks like a peppermint candy, which would account for its other nickname: the Candystripe beet. While its insides are normally the featured attraction, it’s also got a lovely pink-hued skin and vibrant greens that are excellent when sautéed with a little olive oil and garlic. As this varietal has a relatively low germination period and time to maturity, it’s a great candidate for successive plantings throughout the growing season.
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 cooler weather.
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 5.5 to 6.0 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: Can be harvested at any time for baby greens, large greens, or beet roots, but tend to reach full maturity between 50 to 75 days. Pick leaves when needed; otherwise, dig up whole plant after maturity. 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.
Fun Fact: The Chioggia beet is one of the few varieties available that doesn’t stain fingers and bleed into your dish when cooked. The lovely rings of this beet will fade, however, when it’s baked or sautéed, so if you’d like to keep the colors vibrant, we recommend steaming your roots or eating them raw.
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.
This fantastic Beet Carpaccio dish is not only healthy but also a great way to display the inner beauty of your Chioggias. Instead of sour cream, we recommend soy yogurt and skipping the feta to make this tasty treat totally vegan!