The heat index is a miserable 103 today here in Central Illinois, so what better time to sit in the air conditioning, and write a post about beets? I’ve never bought a beet in my life, but last summer I decided to grow them just for fun because that’s what we gardeners do. Last year my beet planting was an experiment, but this year I got serious. Here’s what I’ve learned in my two beet-planting (and eating) years.
Number one, beets are easy to grow. Number two, beet leaves and their beautiful crimson-red stems are gorgeous as they grow. And number three, beets and their leaves are yummy! Oh, and number four, they’ll turn your pee a lovely shade of pink.
In zone 5, it’s safe to plant beet seeds after May 15 when danger of frost is past. My planting space is very limited so I only planted a short row of beet seeds, and thinned them when they were a couple inches tall to about 4″ apart. I planted them in a side yard raised bed along with some onions. I’d already harvested most of them by the time this photo was taken.
I also am trying the “scatter” method in a window-box-type planter, where I just sprinkle the seeds and then thin them as they grow. These are a second batch I planted after the others, so they’re still small.
After about two months, I had some that were big enough to harvest. During my experimental year, I left them in the ground too long and they got to be the size of the Goodyear Blimp. They have a much better flavor if you eat them before they get too big.
They’re just so beautiful!
To fix the beets, cut off the leaves, leaving some of the stems intact at the top of the beet. If you cut the stems off too close to the beet, they’ll bleed. Same goes for the tap root. Don’t cut him off either. If you do, your kitchen will look like a crime scene, and beet blood stains like the real thing.
To fix the greens, I cut off the stems, and sauteed the leaves in some olive oil and garlic cloves until just wilted. Salt and pepper is all they need. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the greens! They’re sort of “spinachy”. The stems go into the worm-composting bin.
I boiled the beets in some salted water in a pan that was just big enough to accommodate the beets. Size-wise these were bigger than a golf ball, but smaller than a baseball, and I boiled them for about 35 minutes. I searched and searched for some idea of what “small” and “big” beets were in different on-line recipes, but no one would elaborate on what constituted “small” and “big”, so there you go. I kept a close eye on them to make sure the water didn’t evaporate too much. They need to stay completely covered with water.
Remember what I said earlier about how beautiful beets are? Ok, not so much now.
After they cooled off a bit, the skin peeled right off.
Once the skin came off and the stems and root were removed, they were beautiful again!
I brushed the slices with some butter, and added salt and pepper. They really were amazing!
If you didn’t get a chance to plant beets in zone 5 in the spring, they can still be planted in August for a fall harvest. If they are planted late, and don’t have time to fully mature, they can still be eaten when they’re small too!
This post was written by Tracy Evans, who is a certified Home Stager and Redesigner, a journeyman painter and an avid gardener. If you have an interest in home organization, DIY home improvement projects or redesign, please feel free to visit her other blog at https://homestagingbloomingtonil.wordpress.com/. You can find additional before and after pictures on her website at http://www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com.