by National Gardening Association Editors
Dedicated beet lovers swear that juicy, deep red beets fresh from the garden make the finest eating available. If you plant plenty of beets, you can enjoy an early feast of beet greens, beet salads all summer and an ample winter supply for the root cellar.
Here we deal with table beets for backyard gardeners. In addition to the table types, sugar beets are grown commercially for making white sugar. Table beets taste sweet because they, too, are loaded with natural sugar.
Beet seeds are somewhat bigger than the seeds of other root crops, and they look like bits of cork. Each one is actually a cluster (or corm) with three or four seeds.
Beets come in many shapes and sizes, and in colors ranging from red to white to golden or striped. Some varieties are grown for their greens rather than their roots. Here are descriptions of several popular varieties to get you started.
- Chioggia (55 days). A sweet-tasting Italian heirloom with distinct red- and white-striped flesh.
- Detroit Dark Red (59 days). A popular deep red, round variety that grows 21/2- to 3-inches in diameter. It can be grown for both greens and roots and grows well in a wide range of soil and temperature conditions.
- Formanova (60 days). Cylinder-shaped beet; grows up to 8 inches long, perfect for uniform slices.
- Golden (55 days). These unusual carrot-colored roots take some getting used to, but they taste exactly like the red beets, and they don't "bleed." The greens are also delicious. If your kids don't like beets, try a golden type and see if they change their minds.
- Lutz Green Leaf (80 days). This unusual variety grows up to four times the size of most beets, but tastes sweetest when harvested small. It's a good winter keeper.
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