Include garden beets in your diet for a nutritious lifestyle
Do you care about a nutritious lifestyle? Do you include garden beets in your diet? Garden beets on the dinner or salad plate are often a very personal choice. Oftentimes, people love beets or hate them! Aside from their taste, they are super nutritious, packed with essential vitamins and minerals and anyone should be include garden beets in their diet if they want to follow a nutritious lifestyle.
They really do have an earthy-taste that comes from a specific organic compound contained in beets with that distinct earthy flavor. It is produced by certain bacteria called Geosmin that is responsible for the down-to-earth taste of beets. It is also that same compound that you smell when soil is disturbed.
The USDA says in the National Nutrient Database, beets are highly nutritious root vegetables that are a great source of vitamins and minerals, high in potassium, sodium, iron, folate, phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium, vitamin C, and B vitamins such as thiamin, niacin, and riboflavin. Beets are low in calories and fat and because of their deep, dark color, high in antioxidants. Beets get their deep color from the betalain pigment, which has potent anti-inflammatory properties. Powerful health benefits of beets include their ability to lower blood pressure, improve digestion, boost athletic performance, and prevent cancer.
They are also abundant in phytochemical compounds such as anthocyanins, carotenoids, lutein/zeaxanthin, glycine, and betaine.
Beets, (Beta vulgaris) are originally from the Mediterranean region and ancient records show their cultivation in Egypt, Greece and Rome and throughout the Middle East as far back as 4,000 years ago. They are said to get its name from the Greek letter beta because the root resembles a Greek letter B.
Beets are usually sown directly in the soil rather than started indoors and transplanted into the garden later. It is best to start late February to early April if your soil can be worked, for harvest 45-60 days later in the spring. They can also be started mid-August to early October for a fall to early winter harvest. In our Zone 9 area of Central California I can overwinter mature beet plants in the ground, but they do stand still in their growth so need to be full sized. In the spring they will start to grow and set seed so harvest before seed stalks appear.
Successive plantings every 7–10 days during planting season will provide a continuous harvest over a longer period. Soil temperatures for beet germination are 50° to 85°F. Beets won’t germinate if soil temperature is too hot.
To encourage faster germination, soak briefly and rinse under cold running water before sowing. Immediately sow the seeds about 1 inch apart at a depth of ½ inch. Plant rows at least 8-10 inches apart to make weeding between the rows easier.
If you are growing in raised beds then you can reduce row spacing to 6 inches. Press seeds firmly into the ground and cover lightly with compost or soil. If you are planing golden beets, you may need to plant extra seeds as they are not known to germinate well.
Growing beets need to be properly thinned to grow to maximum size at harvest. Enough spacing is essential for a quality crop. One of the most important insights I learned about beet seeds explained a lot about seeding and thinning. Beets have a different seed structure from other garden seeds. Each seed is actually a group of seeds, a cluster which contains 3-5 seeds, although there are some varieties that are single seeds.
For beets to be at their optimum, they must make continual growth.
- Beets require reliable moisture, so water thoroughly when you irrigate and don’t let the soil become dry in between watering.
- Keep the soil from drying out by 1- to 2-inch layer mulch of straw, leaves or compost after the plants are a few inches tall.
- Keep well weeded between rows.
- Apply a balanced all purpose organic fertilizer when seeding.
- Apply a fish emulsion-type tea a couple of weeks after emergence at dilution rates for seedlings.
- Limit high nitrogen fertilizer that will encourage too much top growth.
Harvest begins 45-65 days from seed sowing. You may begin harvesting when the roots are at least 1 inch wide, thinning alternate plants to allow remaining plants to grow up to 3 inches wide. Beets tend to get tough if left to grow much larger. It’s best to use a pitchfork to lift the roots to avoid damaging the beets. Pull out the entire plant while it is still young, tender, and flavorful. Beet roots will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks and are easy to can, freeze and pickle to preserve a bountiful harvest.
If you’re undecided about beets and have a take-them-or-leave-them attitude, then you should definitely grow garden beets and include in your diet. You will be following an ancient tradition and a nutritious lifestyle.