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Beets (Beta vulgaris) are a biennial plant typically grown as an annual. A member of the goosefoot family, this vegetable is a dual purpose since both the root and greens can be eaten. Although many do not eat greens, they are very nutritious and rich in vitamins and growing beets is pretty easy to do.
The Greeks are responsible for giving the plant its genus (Beta, and in ancient times, beets were used mainly as a remedy for a variety of ailments. As far back as the 1800s, beets were considered a "poor man's food" and were brought to the Americas by early colonists. By the time the Civil War began, beets were a common staple at the dinner table, as food for livestock and for exacting the sugar.
Beets are widely adaptable to most gardening zones however, in warmer regions, beets should be grown as a spring or harvest crop. There are a wide variety of beets available today to choose from. Some are small and round, while others have a cylindrical shape. Globe-shaped varieties fare better in heavy and/or rocky soil.
Beet Basic Facts
Seed germinates in 8 to 10 days. The best temperature for germination is from 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, but black-eyed peas will germinate from 40 to 80 F. As with bush beans, germination in ideal temperatures will take eight to 10 days, but it can take two weeks or more if soil temperatures are below 60 F.
Plant Black Eyes Peas in the spring, as they can only be grown in warm soil, with no risk of frost or cold, generally in the late spring and throughout the summer.
86 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a heat-loving vegetable that won't really take off until the air temperatures remain reliably warm.
You will want to grow 20-30 plants per person planning on eating them. You have to shell these buggers, like peas and it takes more plants than you would think.
First of all, it is traditional to kick off the new year with them - tons of recipes suggest it as a way to bring not only good luck, but prosperity.
These are best cooked, and are often served with greens, rice, and / or pork.
Some varieties are better if the greens are to be harvested also. The colors of beets also range from the common reddish-purple to shades of golden yellow. Gardeners will need to decide which cultivar will work best for their region. For warm regions or Zones 8 and warmer, a quick maturing beet will probably be best suitable.
Beets Like Cooler Weather
Beets grow best in cool weather but will also tolerate partial shade in hotter zones. The soil should be plowed deeply and free of debris and rocks. While the roots can tolerate colder temperatures, the greens cannot. Beet plants will flourish in nutrient-rich soil that has a pH of 6.5 or above. Small root production can be a sign of high nitrogen levels in the soil. Dressing with wood ash and/or organic matter can correct other growing problems like elongated roots or browning.
How to Plant Beets
Beets can be planted directly into the ground or started indoors. Begin seeds outdoors about two weeks prior to the last frost, or in southern regions, beets can be planted as a fall crop. Seeds will germinate better when the seeds are soaked overnight in tepid water. Plant the beet seeds about one inch deep and approximately two inches apart. Each seed contains several seeds within and can produce several plants. However, beets are notorious for spotty germination, so they still need to be planted about two inches apart.
Beets germinate fairly quickly. Once plants are established or when they are about two inches high, thin the beets to about four inches apart, or for larger beets, thin to about five to six inches apart. When beets are planted for the harvesting of the greens only, the plants will not need to be thinned. Crowded beets will not develop well, so be vigilant with thinning.
The plants can be mulched to help the roots retain moisture. They will need at least one inch of water per week. In hot temperatures, the beets can become tough and not as palatable. Feed monthly with a low-nitrogen fertilizer. Although beets are not commonly affected by garden diseases, they may attract leaf miners and other garden pests. This can be deterred with floating covers. Avoid planting beets near their relative plants to help deter ailments like leaf spots.
Beets should be harvested when they are young and tender. When the roots measure about one to two inches across the top, they can be pulled or dug from the ground. The roots should be stored without the leaves attached to the refrigerator. If storing in a cellar, do not wash the beets prior to storing.
A 25-foot row of beets is plenty for a family for one season. For storing or preserving, you should increase the amount planted. Once you have mastered the basics of growing beets, you may want to experiment with different varieties to find the best fit for your environment and palate.
Benefits of Beets
Beets are a great thing to add to your diet, especially if you are trying to "eat the rainbow". That deep red translates to heart healthy goodness!
According to Healthline:
Packed with essential nutrients, beetroots are a great source of fiber, folate (vitamin B9), manganese, potassium, iron, and vitamin C. Beetroots and beetroot juice have been associated with numerous health benefits, including improved blood flow, lower blood pressure, and increased exercise performance.Healthline
Easy Recipe for Beets
One of my favorite ever salads that used beets was at Lawrey's Prib Rib - where they took a nice green mix, added chopped hard-boiled eggs, julienned pickled beets, and then tossed it all with a very mild 1000 Isle dressing. The server plated it and topped the salad with a few grape tomatoes.
It. Was. Amazing.
To this day, I crave it and it is the driving force behind me not only growing beets, but pickling them.
How To Make Pickled Beets is a simple, and yet very easy recipe to do. If you are not really a canner, you will have no problem whipping these ruby gems up!