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News from the Good Food Project

That Intense Vegetable

The beet is an intense vegetable. Don't be put off by their rough exterior. Organic gardening tells us these scarlet beauties are full of sweetness, yes sweetness. A dirt-covered beet freshly pulled from the soil does not instinctively rouse the appetite---unless, or course, you know what's beneath that rough exterior. Beets have nourished civilizations for many centuries, from the Neolithic peoples of the Netherlands to the Roman Empire and 8th century Babylonia. Those early wild beets, used as food and medicine, were long and sinewy rather than round.

Beets have loads of healthful benefits, and can be prepared in endless delicious ways. High in fiber and rich in vitamins A and C, have more iron than other vegetables, including spinach. Beets are rich in calcium, potassium, and phosphorus, aw well as folic acid. Better yet, the classic beet's red coloring comes from betalains which are potent antioxidants that deter the formation of cancer-causing free radicals.

Beets are adapted to grow in the cool weather, making them a perfect vegetable to plant both in spring and late summer. They thrive when the days are warm and nights cool. Sow the seeds in the full sun for the best roots; if you don't have a sunny spot in your garden, plant them anyway as beets will produce a lot of leafy greens in partial shade. Beets grow best in loamy, acid soils. They aren't fond of crowds, so when sowing the seeds, plant them about 1 inch deep and 3 t0 4 inches apart, or sow them closer together and use the thinnings later for salad fixings.

Spread a layer of grass clippings, shredded leaves, or straw around your beet patch to help keep the moisture consistent---that is essential for uniform root growth. Be sure to mulch well in spring to protect your beets from unexpected hot spells.

Got a pot that is a least 12 inches deep? You can grow beets on your deck, just make sure the containers are watered more than an in-the-ground garden.

You can start enjoying your beet crop at the first thinning. simply cut greens during the thinning process to use in salads. Pull up baby beets when they reach 1 inch in diameter and cook them up with their stems. When harvesting larger beets, leave 1 to 2 inches of the stems attached to prevent any staining or "Bleeding"

Beets are perfect, steamed with a little butter. Of course many gardeners like to preserve beets through traditional pickling and canning. They can be stir fried with a little honey glaze or eaten raw in spring rolls. If your family turns their nose up at beets, try them for dessert. Add freshly cooked, pureed beets to chocolate cake batter. This addition makes the cake extra-moist and creates a truly healthful treat.


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