Beets are power packed root vegetables full of vitamins and high in iron. They’re unique little gems even as seeds. Fun fact: every beet seed is actually a dried fruit made up of 2 to 6 individual seeds! This fall, get acquainted with the health benefits of these easy-to-grow veggies.
If you’re new to gardening, beets provide fruit quickly and have lured many brown-thumbed newbies into the world of gardening. Most varieties can be harvested less than 2 months after planting and greens are edible as soon as they break through the ground. Francisco Arroyo, founder of local organic farm KYV Farms says, “I started planting beets in September. Those should be ready in November.” But he doesn’t stop with the first crop! In Northeast Florida, beets can be sown through March for a continual harvest.
Beets grow easily and produce heavy yields in Florida. While most cooks instantly think of soft, canned scarlet globes, the greens are equally vitamin-rich. In the Swiss Chard family, the greens are edible in salads or cooked. Since beet greens don’t stay fresh as long as other greens, a farm share or your garden is the best source for beet greens. Keep in mind that if all the greens are harvested from a plant, it will not develop the root vegetable beet plants are best known for.
KYV Farms’ Francisco says that beets are the original two-for-one deal. “Beets with their greens attached are, in our opinion, one of the great deals in a farm share.” On KYVFarm.com, he reminds his CSA members that like the tuber, the greens from red beets will stain things (including lighter vegetables) a lovely shade of pink.
Try one of Francisco’s favorite beets for our region in your garden this season. KYV plants the following beets: Italian heirloom Chioggia Beets which have playful red and white lines inside, Detroit Dark Red, Blankoma White Beets and Golden Beets.
How to Grow:
· Beets will grow from seed if you sow in moist soil & keep the soil moist throughout germination. Shortcut: As with many seeds, you can expedite germination by soaking beet seeds in water for 24 hours before planting.
· Plant seeds ½” deep, 3 to 4 inches apart to allow space for the beets to develop. Water regularly.
· Remember that beet seeds are a cluster of several seeds. As they sprout and reach 2” in height, thin seedlings by cutting the leaves of all plants but one. Eat these greens in a salad or straight out of your organic garden!
· Mulch your beets to keep the soil moist.
· You can trim a few of the leaves for salad but if you’d like to harvest the roots, don’t over-prune. Harvest beet roots when they’re 1½ inches to 3 inches in diameter.
Quick Cooking Tip:
Try adding beet greens to a sauté of onions and mushrooms for breakfast. Once the greens have wilted, top with an over easy egg for a quick, nutritious and hearty breakfast!
Allie O. is a KYV member and a lover of all things local. Check out her local favorites in her blog, SimplyStAugustine.com. This article originally appeared in HealthSource Magazine, the magazine for healthy living in Northeast Florida!