Beets have a sweet, earthy flavor that is unlike any other vegetable I have tasted. And the gorgeous deep ruby red color inspires me to search for new ways to incorporate them in my lunch and dinner plans.
Unfortunately, most people have only experienced beets as purple pickled pieces of a stodgy salad. Truthfully, I happen to love pickled beets, but there are so many wonderful ways to eat them.
How to Grow Beets
(adapted from Jean Ann Van Krevelen’s Book Growing Food: A Guide for Beginners.)
Beets are easy to grow…There are just a few key things you need to know to ensure success:
- These guys like to grow in cooler temperatures. If you have hot summers, you will do best by growing in early spring and fall. If you have mild winters, you may be able to grow them year-round.
- Scout the planting site. Beets can take partial shade, a rarity in veggies; I like to grow them in full sun in the mornings with a bit of shade in the late afternoon.
- They don’t take up a lot of space, so you can sneak them in lots of places. You can even pop them into your flower borders; just make sure you are using organic gardening methods there, too.
- Beets must have even watering (an inch a week or so) and room to grow. As with many root vegetables, if weeds or other beets are in the way, they will not grow in size.
- Once you choose your site, use a trowel or shovel to break up the ground a bit. Add rich, organic compost, and mix around. Remember, these form bulb type ends…so make sure they don’t have to fight too hard to make that happen.
- Often, you will be directed to plant beets in rows and trenches, if you have the space, that’s a great idea. But, you can also work out a modified version that fits your needs. Plant in whatever configuration works best for you.
- Plant them about 1/2 inch deep, about 2 inches apart. Watch for the little guys to start breaking ground.
- Beets will reach maturity in 50-65 days.
- When they become seedlings and start crowding (about 2 inches high or so), thin them out and eat the greens…
- Beet seedlings don’t play well with each other…if they are too close, they will suppress each other’s growth. And isn’t that really true for all of us?
- Fertilization with a side dressing of compost will encourage early growth.
- Beets should be harvested soon after they reach full size. Plant rows in succession so you can extend the harvest.
It is a great time to add this unassuming veggie to your palate. If you aren’t sure about the strong flavor or the red version, try the golden beet, very tender and sweet. Please, for all of us, give beets a chance.
Jean Ann Van Krevelen, Portland, Oregon author and garden coach, enjoys a passion for growing, harvesting, preparing and storing vegetables and fruits of all kinds. Her new book, Growing Food: A Guide for Beginners consists of easy to follow steps to start growing your own food. For more information, visit her Growing Food Guide website.