Nobody is neutral about beets. You either hate them or you love them.
I happen to be one of the people who love them…. Their rich, dark red root looks like it is loaded up with nutrients and flavor (which it is). Some even say that beets have to do with longevity. They are easy to keep in the root cellar and provide us with good eating all year long. My beet kvaas (see related blog) is something that I enjoy every day.
Beets don’t mind a bit of frost so they are one of the crops that goes into the ground early. A beet seed is actually not a seed at all, but a fruit. Each “seed” will produce many seedlings so it is essential to keep an eye on them early to thin out all but the strongest babies. I generally plant them in rows about 6 to 7 inches apart and cover them with ¼ inch of soil or compost. Like carrots, this upper part of the bed needs to be kept moist until they emerge, but they will do so quicker and are more forgiving of a dry bit than carrots are. They like to have some good, organic matter to feed them so I always work old manure or compost as well as kelp meal, azomite powder and alfalfa meal into the soil before I plant them.
As they grow, their roots dig down deep into the soil so that they can go for a few days without water. When you do water them, water them well. Their bright green leaves and red stems are a joy to watch become larger and stronger.
It’s necessary to watch them in order to make sure that everybody has room to grow. The greens are delicious steamed (even when they are fairly small). I wash them, rip them into small pieces and steam them for several minutes tossing several times with tongs (until limp). Then, I put them into a bowl with butter and grated cheddar cheese and stir. While it takes a bit of effort, this is one of my all-time favorite things to eat.
If you keep them properly thinned, by the fall you will have some beautiful, big beets to eat or put into your root cellar (see former blog on proper preparation and storing tips for the root cellar). Bon appetite!