I detested beets as a child, and rightly so. The canned red roots my parents forced upon me smelled and tasted like wet dirt. I avoided them at all costs. Years later, when I started growing my own food, I unearthed the magic of the beetroot. Now they’re a garden favorite I couldn’t live without.
As an adult, I’ve crossed paths with many people who have that same distaste for beets. It’s unfortunate because this under-appreciated root is easy to grow, versatile, and tastes so good when harvested at home.
The Overlooked Underdog
Root vegetables have always intrigued me. They’re nutrient dense, low maintenance and a mystery until unearthed, but not all roots are equal. Beets, while shaped like potatoes, are more similar to carrots. They’re taproots, and the part that swells up at the surface is what we eat. The actual root of a beet plant, however, isn’t the only edible portion. The leaves, especially when young, are extremely tasty and add a beautiful red hue to salads.
Every year I anxiously await my first beet harvest. There’s something special about pushing back the leaves and seeing those roots grow day after day. In the spring, as my garden slowly mutates into a leafy green maze, I always have my eyes fixed on the beet bed.
My love of beets, and many other root vegetables, stems from their versatility. Before the roots begin to swell they provide a nice harvest of tender leaves. After they grow to the size of golf balls, the taproots can be boiled, pickled, roasted, or eaten raw. It doesn’t end there, as the roots will continue to swell without sacrificing that earthy and succulent flavor. Once they reach the size of baseballs, beets do quite well in a root cellar. Just remove the leaves, put them in a paper sack, and keep them in the dark.
Red and gold varieties are most common and both types provide a unique flavor and color to dishes. I prefer them raw in a salad or chopped and roasted, but again, there are many ways to enjoy them. So don’t leave beets out of your garden plan this year. They’re easy to grow and nutrient dense. Bring the magic of root vegetables to the surface and grow some beets.