I’m a fan of beets in any form. I grow several different types in my garden because I love them roasted or pickled and I enjoy the leaves as a sautéed green. Rich in vitamin C, fiber, potassium, folate & manganese, beets are super-low in calories. These little beauties offer tons of health benefits: they significantly lower blood pressure, can improve athletic performance (nitrates), are anti-inflammatory, and may improve both digestion and brain health.
Planting beets is a cinch! In cooler weather, they thrive in a sunny spot with rich, moist soil (wait until the soil reaches a temperature of about 50 degrees). In Central Indiana, that’s usually late March or the first of April. Plant seeds 1/2 inch deep and 2 inches apart. If you live in an area with little rainfall, you should soak your seeds overnight before planting. Here in the midwest, soaking isn’t needed. Make sure to thin your seedlings after they emerge so that you have 3-4 inches between each. Beyond that, simply keep them watered and mulched, removing weeds as needed.
Most beets mature between 50 & 70 days. Don’t let the greens grow above 6 inches before you harvest. Fresh beets can be stored in the fridge about a week with their tops clipped to about an inch in length.
Grocery store varieties tend to be dark red or golden in color. Both are tasty, but if you’re looking for wow-factor, there are some stunners you can grow. Some are concentric circles of red while others are pink and even white. Two of my favorites this year are the “Rainbow Mix” from www.edenbrothers.com and the ringed “Touchstone Gold Beet” from www.highmowingseeds.com.
Before I share my favorite method of preparing beets (roasting!), I’ll describe how I like to use the rich green leaves. Wash and give them a quick dip (10 seconds) in simmering water to preserve their color. Immediately cool them in an ice water dip, then coarsely chop. Finally, I sautée them with butter, salt and pepper OR with a clove of chopped garlic, a drizzle of my best olive oil and some crushed red pepper. Both versions are quick and easy.
Below is my recipe for Roasted Beet Salad. Give it a try and let me know what you think:
Roasted Beet Salad with Orange Vinaigrette
5 ounces baby arugula
3 ounces fresh goat cheese
1/3 cup toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 T olive oil
juice and zest of one orange
2 t whole grain mustard
1 T honey
2 T apple cider vinegar
salt & black pepper, to taste
-Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
-Trim the long stringy part of the root and the greens from your beets.
Leave about an inch of stem on each.
-Wrap each beet in aluminum foil and place on a baking sheet. On the middle rack of your oven, leave them to bake for an hour. While the beets are roasting, Combine all ingredients for the dressing in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake to combine.
-Remove beets from the oven and allow them to cool, still wrapped in foil. When they can safely be handled, unwrap one at a time. Grab the stem with a paper towel in one hand and using a second paper towel, gently wipe away the skin. It should slide off easily.
-When you have “skinned”all six, slice them in 1/4 inch rounds.
-To assemble the salad, choose a large bowl and arrange sliced beets on top of baby arugula. Crumble the goat cheese and sprinkle on the beets. Top with the pepitas and drizzle the dressing over all.
Elizabeth Morse cooks professionally, is an Advanced Master Gardener and lover of all things local.