Are Beets a Vegetable?

Yes, they are, but did you also know that beets can be used to make red velvet cake and that beet greens are just as nutritious as the beet itself? Learn more interesting facts about this colorful veggie.

December 09, 2019
Beet recipes

Beet Roundup

Beets can be a surprising, yet welcome addition to any meal or dish.

©2013, Images courtesy of BDsWorld via Flickr

2013, Images courtesy of BDsWorld via Flickr

Beet or beetroot as they are commonly called outside the United States is a root vegetable that was domesticated around the 8th century BC. Beets originated in the Mediterranean region from the sea beet, which can still be found growing wild to this day. At that time, beets were mainly used for medicinal purposes until the 1800s when French chefs realized their potential as a side dish. Most beets are ruby red, but they also come in white, golden yellow, purple and striped.

Beets have played a big part in the culinary history of the US, not only as a tasty side dish but as a source of food coloring. Before food dyes became commonplace, beets were used to give foods like red velvet cake its redness. Today, because of the desire not to use artificial coloring, using beets as a food coloring has made a resurgence even in the commercial production of cereals, candy and confectionaries. (Try dying Easter eggs with beets!) Back in the day, beets were also used medicinally because it was thought they helped with illnesses of digestion and blood.

Beets are part of the Chenopodiaceae family, also known as the Goosefoot family. Other members of this botanical family include spinach, Swiss chard and quinoa. Plants within this group are typically rich in calcium.

Growing Beets

All beets, no matter their color, prefer being in the full sun and they can tolerate salty and alkaline soils. Beet seeds do best when direct sowed into the garden because they do not transplant well. Sowing should be done when the soil temperature has reached 50 degrees. Prior to planting seeds, soak them in warm water for 24 hours to help with germination. Beets are considered a cool-season crop and can tolerate numerous frosts.

Don't Throw Away the Tops

Beet greens hold more nutritional value than the root itself. During the 8th century, beets were typically used for the leaves and not the root. Today, the root is typically used instead of the greens. Greens can be used in recipes that call for spinach, Swiss chard, kale or other similar leafy greens. Raw beet greens can be mixed with various types of lettuces for a healthy salad, but the center vein can be bitter so it is often removed. Beets greens can be cleaned and stored the same way it's done for chard, kale or lettuce. To cook beet greens, blanch them for one to two minutes then transfer them to a pan to saute with olive oil and salt and pepper.

The Red Runs Deep

It is important to know that the red color component, Betanin, cannot be broken down by the body. So after eating red beets or foods that use it as a coloring agent, urine and stool will be dyed red — this is commonly called beeturia. Do not be alarmed as this will work its way out of your body naturally within several days to a week at the most.

Next Up

Planting and Growing Beets

If you’re looking for a vegetable that’s a cinch to grow and packed with nutrition, you can’t beat beets.

What's the Difference Between a Yam and a Sweet Potato?

These two veggies are often called the same thing or misidentified. Find out how to tell the difference between the two, and get tips on how to grow these tasty tubers.

How Do You Know When Carrots Are Ready to Harvest?

Size, color and timing are all factors that determine when to pick your garden carrots.

How to Grow Red Potatoes

Red potatoes are easy-to-grow small potatoes with thin, edible red skins and white flesh, and are perfect for salads, casseroles or as a simple side dish.

How to Grow Carrots

The secret to growing beautiful carrots is in the soil. Follow these tips to start your carrot patch off on the right foot.

Planting and Growing Radishes

Plan on growing radishes in spring and fall. Slice them into salads for a peppery punch, roast them to caramelize their flavors or eat them with salt, butter and a fresh baguette for a delicious snack.

How to Plant and Grow Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes come in two forms: vining and bush varieties. Both types thrive in the hot summer sun and are relatively easy to grow if given the right spacing and soil.

Veggies You Can Plant in Mid-Summer

There are several fast-growing summer vegetables and herbs that can still be planted in July and August.

7 Ways to Prevent Tomato and Potato Blight

Early and late blight can affect both tomato and potato plants. Learn how to protect your garden and keep these diseases at bay by following these prevention tips.

What is Mushroom Compost?

Compost used to grow mushrooms commercially can be used again in your garden to make a wonderful fertilizer.

Go Shopping

Get product recommendations from HGTV editors, plus can’t-miss sales and deals.


Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.