Saturday, December 24, 2016

Beets - Plant of the Week


Beets are one of the overwintering vegetables that really pack a nutrient punch. They can be shredded in a salad, roasted, steamed, sauteed, made into borscht or added to a healthy smoothie. They can be canned, frozen or pickled. Their greens can also be eaten raw or steamed. 

Why Grow Beets?

Besides being an easy and quick crop to grow, beets have few insects or diseases. 
Recent studies of benefits of beets have shown this bright red stain producing root to have great detoxifying properties called betalains and is proven to also be an anti-inflammatory. They are a great source of fiber and is currently being studied for its anti-cancer properties.  It has been used in the treatment of anemia, gall bladder, indigestions, kidney function, and heart disease.  Beets also contain Tryptophan, which is known to relax the mind, lessen anxiety and help sleep. 

 How to Grow

Mature time:    45 - 70 days depending on variety. Pick the best for your area or storage capability.   

Planting:  Till the soil depth of 8" to 12". Sift the soil to remove larger bits and rocks for best results. Beets like a  light, sandy, loamy soil enriched with compost or well aged manure.  Sow seeds 1/2' deep,  2-3 weeks before average Spring frost date in rows 12"-18" apart.   For Fall/Winter crop, sow again in late summer 6-8 weeks before Autumn frost date. You can soak the seeds to help germinate them faster.  Thin seedlings when they reach 2" or allow to grow and eat seedlings in salads or steamed.  Mature beets should be 2" - 4" apart depending on the type and size of the variety. 

Ph: 6.5-6.8 Use lime to raise soil ph if necessary as beets do not like acid soil. Consider phosphorous level as this helps promote bulbs. Go easy on the nitrogen, as this will produce larger leafing and smaller bulbs.   

Watering:  Beets like to be kept moist, so consider mulching. 

Growing: Beets like full sun, but will tolerate shade. When thinning, consider pinching seedlings instead of pulling as this is less disruptive to the tender roots.  Make sure to keep the soil moist and weeded completely. Topdress with compost or fertilizer half way through. 

Harvesting: Pick leaves before they are 6", but no more than 1/3 of the leaves of each beet should be taken. You may harvest beets at any stage.  In warmer climates beets can be left in the ground in winter and pulled as needed. In colder climates, store beets with 1" of tops still attached. 

Beet Recipe Links:

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