You Can’t Beat the Beet
I was asked what my favorite vegetable is and that got me thinking . . . I normally respond to “favorite” questions with an indecisive answer like, “It depends on what I feel like it.” But, I actually think I have an all time favorite – the beet. The flavor is so rich, so nutritious, and goes well with so many dishes. The beet is in season right now so I urge you to run right down to your local farmer’s market or roadside stand and pick up a bundle. The greens are good, too, so if you can find some without their greens cut off, go for it!
I live in Michigan in zone 5b, right on the edge of 5a. It’s not too late to plant beets here – in fact we plan to plant another patch of beets this 4th of July week. Beet seed is a compound seed (for the exception of the variety Solo) which means that every seed you plant it will produce an upwards of 3 plants. So make sure to sow sparingly as well as thin your row of beets when they have their true leaves to about 3″ apart. Beets can be grown as soon as the ground can be worked and can be sown in succession until early fall. Beets can take light frosts so go ahead and harvest those beets past your frost date – they are still good and extremely delicious! Beets appreciate loose, well drained soils with acidity between 6.2 and 6.8, but they will tolerate 6.0-7.5 and a wide range of soil textures. Heavy clay soils can be helped by the addition of organic matter, but make sure it is well composted or it will increase the risk of scab. Best quality arises from deeply cultivated raised beds, free of stones and debris. Fertilize with the ratio of 1-2-2 (N-P-K) before seeding. Beets can suffer from internal black spot if boron levels are inadequate. Use 1lb of boron per acre. There are 43,560 square feet in acre so you can use a simple division problem to figure out how much boron to work into the ground depending on how many square feet of beets you plan to plant.
Link that may be helpful: Beet seed.
After cutting off the greens, scrub the beet like a potato. I know some people who don’t peel the younger beets, but I find beet skin to be a bit too tough anytime of the years. Just take a vegetable peeler and peel the skin off or boil them and then rub the skin off. Make sure to wear plastic gloves when preparing beets and work on top of a wood cutting board as the beet juice stains hands and counter tops.
Beets are awfully good roasted in the oven. Spread them on an aluminum foil lined cookie sheet with a bit of water and season them with salt. They are ready when you can stab the beet with a fork and pull it out easily. My family also loves to grill them. Throw them right on top of the grill for a few minutes to get some char marks and then place in an aluminum foil purse and leave on the grill until they are fork tender. Delicious! I also love my pickled beets. Here is a recipe from Ball’s official site: http://www.homecanning.com/usa/AlRecipes.asp?R=143
Beets can even be eaten raw. Use a mandarin slicer and dress the top of a salad with some fresh beets or grate beets to make a beet slaw dressed with a bit of lemon and orange juices and a splash of olive oil. You can also throw in some grated beet right into your cabbage slaw for some added sweetness and color. Yum!