Beets like cool weather, so we grow them in spring and fall. The spring planting tends to be the most productive for us, with harvests mostly in June. We direct-seed beets in early spring to give them the best chance of maturing before summer’s hot weather, which can negatively impact flavor and quality. The great thing about beets is that the whole plant is edible: roots and leaves. Leaves can be used generically as a cooking or soup green, and the roots can be used and preserved in very diverse ways.
HANDLING & STORAGE
Root vegetables in general store best if the leafy greens have been separated from the roots. Both the leaves & roots will do well in the refrigerator. Leaves are best eaten within a week or so, while roots can store for many weeks.
IN THE KITCHEN
Beets do not necessarily need to be peeled, but occasionally the skins can be a bit bitter, so peeling them can counteract this problem. We often don’t bother, especially with young & tender ones.
–On salad or slaw: shredded beets make a tasty and attractive topping.
–Roasted beets: treat as you would any other root vegetable; roasting brings out their sweetness. This can also be a good precursor to making soup.
–Borscht: a blended soup often made with yogurt, can be served hot or cold. This is a great way to use abundant beets. Here’s our master recipe.
–Beet pasta: gives a rich color to pasta; here’s one recipe for pasta with beets; also would be good added to a cream sauce.
–Sauteed greens: like any other cooking green, a quick saute over high heat with a bit of garlic or other allium does wonders with greens as a side or main dish.
— Vinegar-pickled beets: Whether canned or as fridge pickles, these are delicious. Best done with small, tender beets, we like to use cider vinegar. Online recipes abound.
— Fermentation: Beets can be fermented, and we’ve successfully included them in a mix of fermented vegetables. We’ve read that they are best used in moderation in mixed vegetable fermentation batches.
— Dehydration:Thinly sliced dried beets are a colorful and useful addition to winter pastas, pizzas, and more.— Root cellar (or fridge drawer): Beet roots can store quite a long time in cool, stable conditions. Just make sure you remove the greens.
VARIETIES WE GROW
Cylindra: An open-pollinated variety that produces an elongated root. Nice for slicing, because it produces uniform cross-sections.
Chioggia: An open-pollinated variety with pink skin; a cross-section reveals a beautiful bulls-eye pattern of alternating red & white concentric circles. We think this is a bit more prone to bitterness than the hybrids.
Hybrids: We’ve found standard red hybrids to be particularly productive with nice sweet flavor, though we haven’t absolutely settled on a single favorite. Red Ace and Kestrel have both done well for us.