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Connecticut Garden Journal: Beets to grow and eat for all seasons

Bunch of fresh organic beet roots on a wooden table.
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Beets aren't just those red ball-shaped roots in grocery stores. There are cylindrical-shaped varieties, red and white striped varieties with small roots. If you don't like the staining of the juice from red beets, try growing yellow or white varieties.

I have to admit, when I first started vegetable gardening I wasn't a big beet fan. Beets were not a regular vegetable in my Italian-American household growing up, so they became an acquired taste over the years. Now I love them, especially roasted with other root crops.

Beets have large seeds that are easy to plant and grow quickly in cool soils. The seeds are actually dried fruits, so you can get 2 to 3 seedlings per seed. Thin seedlings to get a good root crop. Plus, the greens are delicious in salads or sautés.

Beets aren't just those red ball-shaped roots in grocery stores. There are cylindrical-shaped varieties, red and white striped varieties such as 'Chioggia', and 'Mini beets' with small roots. If you don't like the staining of the juice from red beets, try growing yellow or white varieties.

Broadcast beets seeds now on raised beds in composted amended soil. Thin the seedlings to 4 inches apart. Remember to save the thinnings for eating. Harvest the roots starting when they are golf ball sized. If left too long in the ground the roots can become woody. We grow 'Lutz Winter Keeper' because it's a long season beet that doesn't get woody when large. If you love beet greens, try 'Bulls Blood' for its red leaves.

Also, don't just think of beets as a spring plant. Sow seeds again in August for a fall harvest. Beets, like many vegetables, get sweeter with cool weather in fall and can take a frost. Cover beets with a row cover and you can harvest them right into the holidays.

Charlie Nardozzi is a regional Emmy® Award winning garden writer, speaker, radio, and television personality. He has worked for more than 30 years bringing expert information to home gardeners.
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