Beetroot is a valuable vegetable, that is semi-hardy and biennial. It is grown year-round for its sweet, tender, succulent roots. Beets contain more sugar than any other vegetable, and its earthy taste and aroma comes from an organic compound called geosmin. Beets of different colours, sizes and shaped have been grown, ranging from red, yellow, white, multi-coloured, round, long cylindrical and huge sugar and mangle beets.
Beets we know today originated in the middle ages from a plant called sea-beet (Beta vulgaris var. maritima) that grew on the dunes along the Caspian sea. Originally only the leaves were used because the roots was still small and underdeveloped. Beets with better developed roots was documented in Roman literature at about 200 AD. In 300BC Romans regarded beetroot as a delicacy and ate it with vinegar and onions. Roman armies used beet as feed for their horses.
Centuries of selection resulted in the different kinds of beet we know today:
- Those with abundant tender leaves became the Swiss Chards of today.
- Red Table Beets which are the most common beets we all know.
- Huge Mangle beets that are used for livestock feed.
Sugar beets, containing up to 20% sugar, that are used for large part of the world’s sugar production.
Beet are very nutritious and contains vitamin A,B and C as well as beta-carotene, calcium, folic acid, iron, manganese, phosphorus, silica and lots of fibre.
The roots ate mostly boiled and eaten with butter. Some varieties are very good for canning and cooled down sliced beets are used as a salad with onions, spices, vinegar and sugar. Greens can be cooked just like spinach and are even more nutritious than the beet roots and spinach. Plant extra and use the baby greens from thinning raw in salads. Some beets like the Chioggia, can even be used as a raw slicing beet in salad for a striking effect. Beets can also be made into a wine that tastes similar to port.
Medicinally beets are a natural laxative and also improves the immune system. Because of its antioxidant content it helps to prevent cancer. It also helps with the forming of blood as well as detoxifying the body.
Pigments in beet juice is very stable and is used as a natural food colouring. Also in the 16th century in England, Victorians used beet juice to dye their hair.
Beets are best directly seeded as they do not transplant well. Soak the corky seeds in water overnight to aid in germination. Plantin full sun, about two weeks before the last spring frost. They do best in loose, well preparedsoil with lots of organic matter.To grow choice beets, encourage quick, steady growth by keeping the soil moist and weed-free. About 55-65 days to maturity.
Coastal Areas: Feb-Apr, Jul-Nov
Inland Areas: Feb-Mar, Aug-Oct
Subtropical Areas: Feb-Apr, Jul-Aug
Difficult. Beet is biennial and seed are produced in the second year.In very cold areas roots have to be dug and stored during winter. All beets will cross with any other beet as well as Swiss Chard, and seed saving is made even more difficult because beet is wind pollinated. Isolation of the crop by only growing one crop on your property will ensure seed purity.
Kohlrabi, Lettuce, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Calendula, Marigolds, Leeks, Bush Beans, Onions, Garlic(Improves the flavour), Parsley, Caraway, Radish, Amaranth, Peppers.
Mints are also good, but because they are so invasive rather use mint clippings as a mulch.
Runner beans and beets stunts each other’s growth.