Here in North Texas, beets can be grown in the spring, however fall is a much better time to grow them. Fall beets are sweeter and more tender than spring-grown plants. They adore cold weather, easily surviving frosts and light freezes, down to about 20 degrees F. That means you can grow them in succession all the way through our mild winters and into the following February. They only take about 60 days to mature from seed, and in the meantime, you can harvest the greens and even enjoy baby beet roots. Or you can wait until they mature and harvest them when they are about the size of tennis balls.
If you’re not already a beet lover, here are some great reasons to become one.
A Delicious Super Food
Beets are one of the most versatile and nutritious foods you can consume. Not only are they considered to be a nutrient-dense “super food,” but there are an almost-endless number of ways to prepare them. They have medicinal properties and they’re still used today as a colorant and flavoring in many other products.
For Your Health
Both the beet root and the greens are excellent sources of fiber, nitrates, folate, vitamins A and K, manganese, copper, and potassium. They’re high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory ingredients, which may help prevent certain types of cancers. Beets are also believed to enhance athletic performance by improving oxygen uptake. These are just a few of its many nutritional attributes.
Beet lovers are probably well aware that the juice, which contains Betanin, can leave red stains on clothing, countertops, and just about anything else it comes into contact with. Over the centuries, people have taken advantage of this property to dye clothing and other articles. It’s still used today as red food colorant, to improve the color and flavor of tomato paste, sauces, desserts, jams and jellies, ice cream, candy, and breakfast cereals, among other applications. Beet juice is also used as a sweetener in many foods.
The Many Ways to Eat Beets
Beets are equally delicious eaten raw, cooked, canned or pickled. Many beet lovers eat them not just for their roots, but also for their greens, which have their own distinctive flavor and they are packed with even more nutrition than the roots. Hopefully this article will inspire you to try new ways of consuming this extremely versatile root vegetable.
Best Varieties for North Texas
Detroit Dark Red
A very popular heirloom variety that’s great for those who want to eat both greens and roots. Tender and delicious, these 2-½ – 3 inch beautiful, deep crimson beets do not get woody as do smaller varieties if allowed to grow large. Perfect for pickling, roasting, and even raw in salads! The greens rival chard and spinach for tenderness and flavor and are very nutritious.
Bull’s Blood has beautiful, deep burgundy red leaf tops and dark red, tender roots. The taste rivals chard and spinach for delectability and nutritional content.
Since 1911, Early Wonder has delivered abundant greens, flavorful beets, and early production. Great for mild climates where multiple crops are possible. The 18-inch greens are as delicious.
Gourmet Blend Gourmet Blend combines three very popular heirloom varieties: Detroit Dark Red, Chioggia, and Golden. Together they create a rainbow of jewel-toned colors that look beautiful in salads and side dishes.
Touchstone Gold -- New Variety
Not only does the color of this beet make it stand apart, but so does the flavor. Golden beets are known for being extra sweet and less "earthy" than their red counterparts. Grown alongside red, white, and candy-striped beets, your harvest will create a playful plate of color at the table. Improved germination and performance over other golden cultivars. Best at 1 – 3 inches round.
When to Plant
As noted above, the best time to grow beets in North Texas is in the fall and winter when temperatures are generally cool but not too cold — that is, between approximately 75 degrees and 40 degrees F. Even lows of 20 degrees F won’t stop them.
We recommend starting beets from seed and sowing them directly into the ground or a large container. Beet seeds are actually a dried fruit with 1 to 5 seeds in each fruit, so you will definitely need to thin them out as they grow.
Transplanting is not recommended, however, they can be transplanted after their foliage reaches about 2 inches in height.
Begin seeding them in early September. Use succession planting to space out your crop and plant them about 20 days apart. This way, you’ll be less likely to lose everything if there is a severe weather event or insect problem.
For spring planting, start your seeds in late January to early February. Stop planting when temperatures warm to 75 degrees F. Keep in mind that warm weather will cause them to bolt, so consider planting bolt-resistant varieties in the spring.
TIP: For faster, more vigorous germination, before planting, soak your seeds overnight in Maxicrop Liquid Seaweed.
Where To Plant
Plant beets where they will be in full sun (6 or more hours per day) in loose, well-composted soil or in raised beds using a mix such as our Soil Mender Raised Bed Mix.
Make sure the area has good drainage so that the roots never stay too wet.
Beets have deep roots that can reach depths of 36 to 48 inches, so do not plant them where tree roots will compete.
If you are row planting, sow seeds ½-inch deep and 1 to 2 inches apart in rows that are about 1 foot apart.
After sowing, cover the seeds with the soil and tap it down with your hand or rake.
Keep seeds moist until sufficient roots have developed.
TIP: Beet greens can be a colorful addition to flowerbeds and container gardens. Consider mixing them in where they can show off their bright green leaves and contrasting purple veins.
Care and Maintenance
Water to a depth of about 1 to 2 inches about once a week. (Don’t forget to count rainfall!)
Thinning is necessary, as you may get more than one seedling out of each seed. Thin when they reach about 2 inches high by pinching them off.
Pulling them out of the ground may disturb the roots of nearby seedlings.
Established plants should be thinned to 3 to 4 inches between plants.
After you’ve thinned out your plants, mulch them to help keep weeds out. Any necessary cultivation should be gentle so as not to disturb the roots.
Fertilize your beets about once every two weeks with a balanced vegetable fertilizer such as Soil Mender’s Yum Yum Mix Plant Food or our Liquid Fish & Seaweed Blend.
TIP: Save the tiny greens that you’ve pulled and throw them in your soup, salad or stir fry for a delicious addition.
Beets are relatively hardy and rarely have significant pest problems. However, you should watch for the following types of insect damage and, if necessary, treat with organic products:
Aphids: These tiny insects gather together on the greens and suck the juice from the plant. They can be black, yellow, white or orange. They are easily controlled with Neem Oil or Insecticidal Soap.
Fleabeetles: Another tiny insect. Fleabeetles make tiny holes in the leaves of the plant almost as if someone has used a hole punch. They can be controlled with Neem Oil or Triple Action.
Worms: Beet armyworms and webworms are actually caterpillars, not worms. Caterpillars can be treated with BT (bacillus thuringiensis) or Natural Guard Spinosad. Both products specifically target caterpillars and won’t harm beneficial insects such as ladybugs or earthworms.
The most likely problem you will have with beets is root rot, which is caused by over watering and/or poor drainage. Make sure your plants have a chance to dry down to a depth of 1 inch or so before watering them.
Fungal problems, which tend to develop in damp, cloudy weather, can also be an issue. Treat this with Neem Oil or Monterey Disease Control.
Greens can be harvested anytime while the plant is still growing in the ground. Simply snip off a few leaves from each plant. Be careful not to clip too many off at a time so that the plant has a chance to regenerate its foliage.
Roots are more tender when they are harvested after about 40 to 50 days. After that the roots start to become tougher and more fibrous.
When harvesting them, leave at least one inch of foliage on the root to avoid bleeding during cooking.
Wash them thorough to remove any soil and let them dry out before storing them.
Raw beets can be kept in the refrigerator for about a week. For longer term storage, raw beets need to be kept in a cool, dark and humid cabinet.
They can also be frozen, canned or pickled.
Try Our Pickling Kit
Pickling is a very popular way to preserve beets and it’s especially easy when you use on of our new Pearl and Johnny 10-Minute Pickling Kits.
Each kit includes a Mason jar and a package of pickling spices with one of four different spice blends. You can choose from: Dill-Icious, Fire and Spice, Jalapeno and Horseradish, and Sweet Dreams. Spice packages are also available separately.
For other suggestions on ways to serve beets, here are some of our favorite links:
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