|Beets (Beta vulgaris) photo credit|
Beets are a love it or hate it vegetable that is thought to have been domesticated early in agriculture history in the Mediterranean region . Both the tops (greens) and the bottoms (tuber) are eatable. In fact, the greens contain more nutrition than the tuber so next time you head to the garden to harvest a beet, wash the greens and give them a try too! The greens are frequently steamed or boiled, while the tuber is often sauteed in butter, boiled, or pickled. (I found a Garden Cake recipe this year which includes chopped beet tubers that my family found surprisingly good! Try it! ;D)
Beets prefer cool temperatures (not freezing) but tolerate heat making them a good long season plant and great addition to a northern garden. They can be directly seeded into a prepared garden bed as much as 5 weeks prior to the average last spring frost in the spring and again in the fall 6 to 10 weeks before the average first fall frost. As with other tuberous vegetables (carrot, parsnip), the beet does best in a loose, well drained soil and full sun. Thin seedlings to one inch apart initially and 3-4 inches apart as they get larger (don’t forget to eat the greens of the thinned individuals!). Water beets to maintain continuous growth and harvest when the greens are 4-6 inches tall or the tuber is 1 1/2 – 2 inches in diameter. Like kohlrabi, beet tubers tend to become more fibrous with age so successive plantings and frequent harvests are preferable for a long season. Store in a cold location (near freezing) with high humidity for long term storage.
Happy Gardening! 🙂