Beet Varieties to Grow in Your Garden
Yes, beets come in a variety of shapes and colors, and all of them are delicious. Find serving ideas and growing tips for this healthy veggie.
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Botanical Name: Beta vulgaris
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. Beet greens (the tops) hold more nutritional value than the root even though the root is consumed more often than the greens. Growing beets is rather easy; they just have a few basic requirements. 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.
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People are most familiar with red or purple beets but many have only eaten them canned. If you're one of those, please do not let this be your only taste experience with beets! Give beets a try again, and I promise they will taste completely different than you remember. Roasted beets are absolutely delicious, especially when they come straight from the garden. Beets are similar to potatoes in that they almost take on flavor qualities of whatever you pair them with. Red varieties to consider include: ‘Detroit Dark Red’, ‘Crapaudine’ and ‘Crosby Egyptian’.
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Golden or yellow beets have a mild flavor compared to their red counterparts. Many people are still becoming familiar with this color even though the first golden beet was introduced in the 1820s. Golden beetroot is a great way to introduce this vegetable to your finicky family members as it has a mild and sweeter flavor that is intensified when roasting. Some cultivars to consider growing: ‘Burpee’s Golden’, ‘Golden’ and ‘Golden Detroit’.
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These varieties are called Chioggia or Bassano Beets, named after a fishing village in Northern Italy where it was first cultivated in the early 1800s. This heirloom variety made it to America around 1840. The striping occurs on the interior of the vegetable which gives it an almost candy-cane-like pattern, hence the reason it is also sometimes called Candy Stripe or Bull’s Eye Beet.
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Want to impress your guests at your next dinner party? Serve them ‘Cylindra’ beets, which look more like a carrot than a beet. This Danish heirloom variety dates back to the 1880s and goes by two other names, ‘Formanova’ and ‘Butter Slicer’. The latter name is due to its soft texture. At full growth, about 60 days, most ‘Cylindra’ beets measure around 6 to 9 inches long.
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Also referred to as mangold, this type of beet was historically grown to feed livestock, but today is grown for its sugary taste. The shape looks more like a turnip or a cross between a carrot and a beet. Varieties such as ‘Mammoth Red Mangel’ can reach 20 pounds, but many gardeners prefer to pick them when they're smaller because the flavor is better. ‘Yellow Cylindrical’ is another mangel variety that is a European heirloom with a golden-yellow hue and a sweet flavor profile.
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Sugar beets, typically only grown as a commercial crop, look more like a turnip than a beet. Their coloring is off-white and conical in the root structure. About 20% of the world’s sugar production is from sugar beets, with the other 80% coming from sugarcane. The sucralose level is extremely high and most people do not eat these beets as they would with the yellow, red or white varieties; however, you can grow sugar beets for the greens which are similar in flavor to spinach or Swiss chard.
Learn More: How to Prepare, Store and Freeze Beet Greens