Guide to Beets

Fresh beets offer great earthy flavor, meaty texture, and color—from golden yellow to deep purple.

SEASON: Beets prefer the cool weather of spring and fall.

CHOOSING: Select small to medium beets with firm, smooth skin and no soft spots or punctures. Those with stems and leaves still attached are best. The foliage should be green and fresh-looking.

STORING: Store beets, greens and all, in a produce bag in the coldest part of your refrigerator for up to two weeks. If you don’t have room for all that foliage, snip it off about an inch above the root, but save the greens. They’re tasty, too.

GROWING: Beets are grown from seeds sown as early as possible in spring, beginning about a month before the last frost date if the soil can be worked. Plant again in late summer for beets that mature in the cool days of fall. If you garden where summers are very mild, make repeated plantings from early spring until fall. In areas where winters are gentle, grow beets in fall, through winter, and into spring.

Each beet seed is actually a group of seeds. Space them about 2 inches apart. When the cluster of seedlings starts growing, snip off all but one so it can develop a proper root. As plants grow larger, thin them to about 4 inches apart. Save the leaves you remove for a fresh salad.

If you have beets growing in your fall garden, mulch them well and let them remain there, unless your soil freezes deeply. Harvest beets as you need them.

Beets seem to be sensitive to drought, so if your area experiences a period of little rain, be sure to water your beet patch. Fertilize with liquid or granular fertilizer about a month after planting at the rate recommended on the label.

PREPARING:

Step 1: Wash the beets whole, and trim to one inch from the stem to minimize bleeding before placing on a foil-lined baking sheet.

Step 2: After cooking, trim off about 1/4 inch of the beet roots.

Step 3: Rub off the skins. They should slip off easily after cooking.

TIP: use disposable latex gloves from the drugstore. They're thin enough to allow dexterity while protecting hands from stains.