WEB SITE DIY ORGANIC GARDENCompliments of The University of Illinois Extension Table beet (also known as garden beet, blood turnip or red beet) is a popular garden vegetable throughout the United States. Beet tops are an excellent source of vitamin A and the roots are a good source of vitamin C. The tops are cooked or served fresh as greens and the roots may be pickled for salads or cooked whole, then sliced or diced. Beet juice is a basic ingredient of Russian borscht. The garden beet is closely related to Swiss chard, sugar beet and mangel. Mangels (also known as stock beets) are considered too coarse for human consumption but are grown for stock feed.
Crosby's Egyptian (56 days to harvest; uniform, sweet, dark red roots; semi-globe to heart shaped; glossy, bright green tops, excellent for greens)
Detroit Dark Red (58 days; tender, round, dark red roots) pictured to the right.
Early Wonder (52 days; flattened globe shape; dark red, sweet and tender)
Lutz Green Leaf (70 days; an heirloom winter-keeper type; purplish red exterior, deep red interior; large, glossy green tops, excellent for greens; roots stay tender even when large; stores extremely well)Pictured left
Ruby Queen (60 days; AAS winner; excellent quality; early; round, tender, sweet, fine-grained, attractive, uniform roots)
Sangria (56 days; ideal globe shape, even in crowded rows; deep red; good greens when young)
Sweetheart (58 days; extra-sweet, round, tasty roots; tops good for greens)
Avenger (57 days; uniform, vigorous; smooth, medium, globe- shaped red roots; glossy tops, good for greens)
Big Red (55 days, best late-season producer, excellent flavor and yield)
Gladiator (48 days; juicy, fine-grained flesh, deep red throughout; holds color without fading when cooked; uniform shape, size and flavor; excellent for canning)
Pacemaker (50 days; early; short tops, excellent-quality roots)
Red Ace (53 days; early; sweet, red roots; resists zoning in hot weather; vigorous grower)
Warrior (57 days; highly uniform, globe shape develops quickly, holds quality as roots grow large; dark red color inside and out; tops fringed with red)
Little Ball (50 days; very uniform, small size; good shape; very tender; grows quickly to form smooth roots)
Little Mini Ball (54 days; roots the size of a silver dollar at maturity; round; canned whole; short tops good for greens)
Cylindra (60 days; long, cylindrical; all slices of equal diameter)
di Chioggia (50 days; Italian heirloom; rounded, candy red exterior; raw interior banded red and white; sweet, mellow flavor; bright green tops, mild and tasty; germinates strongly and matures quickly; does not get woody with age)
Golden (55 days; buttery color, sweet mild flavor) pictured right
Green Top Bunching (65 days; round, bright red roots, good internal color in cool weather; tops superior for greens).
Hand thinning is almost always necessary. The seedlings should be thinned to 1 to 3 inches apart. If thinning is delayed until the plants are 3 inches tall, those removed may be cooked greens, similar to spinach. Some cooks leave the small root (usually about the size of a marble) attached to the greens.
Though it is seldom done, beets actually may be transplanted. Some care must be taken to get the roots oriented vertically so that the beets can develop properly.
A. The most frequent cause for beet plants failing to develop roots is overcrowding from improper thinning.
Q. What varieties should I grow for beet greens?
A. A special vigorously growing variety, Green Top Bunching, is excellent for producing greens. Crosby Egyptian and Early Wonder also can be used for greens. Planting the seeds 1/2 inch apart without thinning produces an abundance of greens. Swiss chard is a heavy producer of greens very similar to beet greens.
Beets vary in color and shape based on variety. The most common is the deep maroon globe-shaped beet. There is an Italian variety which has pink and white rings upon slicing. The golden globe is globe-shaped and orange in color then it turns golden yellow when cooked. Another variety is white and still another is pink.
When harvesting beets, separate the green tops from the roots leaving an inch of stem on the beet. Beets larger than 3 inches in diameter are often fibrous and woody. Beet greens are packed with nutritional value but must be prepared separately. Upon storage the greens will quickly draw the moisture from the root greatly reducing flavor and the beets will become shriveled. Leave one inch stem and the taproot intact to retain moisture and nutrients. After separating, beets store well for about a week in perforated plastic bags in the refrigerator. Use beets while they are still firm and fresh.
Nutrition Facts (1 cup cooked, sliced)
Protein 1.5 grams
Carbohydrate 8.5 grams
Dietary Fiber 1.5 grams
Potassium 259 mg
Phosphorus 32 mg
Folate 53.2 mcg