Beets are a popular garden vegetable for two reasons – they are fairly easy to grow and just about the whole plant can be consumed. Actually, the leaves, whether served tender and young in salads or cooked after they mature, are more nutritious than the beet root.
Most people associate beets with their reddish-purple color, but there are varieties of white and yellow beets as well. Beets can tolerate heat, but they prefer a sunny climate of about 65 degrees. The plants can withstand light freezes as long as the freezing temperatures are not sustained for long periods of time.
Beets like a soil that is loose and well irrigated. They thrive in raised row gardens, but are persnickety about the acidity of their soil. A low PH will stunt the growth of the beet plant and root. If you live where the soil is a heavy clay, organic matter may need to be mixed into the area where the plants are to grow. Be sure to remove all stones and rocks which could inhibit the plants’ development.
Sow the seeds about 1/2 inch deep and 12-18 inches apart. Most varieties mature within 55 -70 days, though some beet roots are edible after 40-50 days. Mulch can be added during the growth process to retain soil moisture and prevent weed infestation.
- Burpee Golden – Roundish root with a yellow-orange color.
- Pacemaker III – Produces a smooth yet tender round beet with good tasting tops
- Red Ace hybrid – The most weather tolerant and matures more quickly
- Little Mini Ball – Sliver-dollar sized round roots.
- Detroit Dark Red – Most common because of its excellent canning and pickling quality. They are both tender and sweet, and their greens are favorable when cooked.
Nutritional Content of Beets
1 cup of beets ( 136 g)-
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Health Benefits of Beets
In ancient times, beet root was used as a treatment for constipation and fever. In Medieval times, beets were used to for other digestive disorders and to fight scurvy. Beet leaves are said to be good for wounds when crushed and applied to them.
Besides being low calorie, no fat and high in fiber, beets also contain substantial amounts of Vitamin C, phosphorus, magnesium, iron and copper.
The high fiber content helps reduce triglyceride levels which means they are a heart healthy food. The Vitamin B folate amounts help in fetal spinal development, so beets are a good food to consume regularly during pregnancy, especially the first trimester.
Betaines in beets help stimulate liver function, and the beta-carotene in them is good for the eyes. The Vitamin C content is beneficial for the respiratory system and also helps capillary development. Some studies show higher potassium levels can lower the likelihood of a stroke. Beets are rich in potassium.
Cautions and Concerns about Beets
Root vegetables usually do contain natural sugars. Beets have the highest amount of sugar of any root vegetable.
People with certain kidney or gall bladder disorders should check with their physicians before consuming beets because they contain oxalates, which can cause the body’s fluids to crystallize.
Additional Beet Resources
http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/1000/1604.html tips on growing and cultivating beets
http://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/vegetable/health-benefits-of-beet.html article on the health benefits
http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2348/2 nutritional values
Creative Commons Flickr photo courtesy of kusine.