Sunday, January 24, 2010

BEETS

Some memories just won't go away. Remember pickled beets from a can served in elementary school? I do. And I didn't eat beets for decades after that. And then I started growing them in the garden. I don't know why, exactly, but they thrived there and I was able to grow many kinds: Golden Beets, Bull's Blood, Chioggia, Detroit Red, and the theatrical Golden Mangel (may grow up to 10 pounds!).

Suddenly, the beet was just about my favorite vegetable.

HISTORY: Our modern beet developed from a wild beet that grew on the Mediterranean coast. the plant was selected for its thick root and was cultivated in a form similar to our standard carrot. White or yellow beets were most common. Chard developed from this beet type and the red beet is first documented in Constantinople between 500 and 511 AD. The beet is not indigenous to the Americas and was most likely brought here by the Italians. Thank you, Italians.

REASONS TO GROW: Beets can be grown nearly year round in our climate. They can be started directly from seed or transplanted when small. The seed is actually a fruit that may contain more than one viable seed so, if you plant directly, you may want to thin or harvest some of them when very small. Keep the beets about 3 - 4 inches apart to allow plenty of room for the beet to develop.

VARIETIES: The best reason to grow beets is the variety available to the home gardener; red ones, striped ones, deep red ones, yellow and white ones as well as that amazing 10 pound mangel. All of these beets have edible stems and leaves. The beets themselves have varying flavors and textures (the Chioggia is the sweetest!).

WHERE TO GROW: Beets have a deep root system so don't do well in containers. Plant them in the garden with a well-worked, loamy soil with a pH of over 6.0. Consistently cool temperatures are best for developing flesh color.

WHEN TO GROW: We offer beet seedlings in spring, late summer and fall. You can plant seedlings every three or four weeks for a continuous harvest. Beets will tolerate light frost.

NUTRITION: Beets are a rich source of Potassium, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus and Copper. Calcium, Sodium, Zinc and Selenium are present in small amounts. Beets have been found useful in the treatment of Colon Cancer. Beets are a natural cleanser which removes toxins from the body.

EATING: Baby beets may be eaten raw, but beets are usually boiled or roasted. The skins slip off easily once the beet is cooked. Red beets 'bleed' and may color other foods on your plate whereas golden or white beets do not.

Spring Salad: Mix sliced golden beets with pitted black olives, baby fava or lima beans and heart of palm with a tangy vinaigrette. Serve at room temperature.

JUICING: Better Red Than Dead
This juice has a high carotene content and may, if taken often, give you that "George Hamilton Look".

1 beet including top
1/2 medium sized sweet potato
3 carrots

Sources:

The Complete Book of Juicing by Michael T. Murray, N.D.
www.johnnyseeds.com
100 Vegetables and Where They Came From by William Woys Weaver

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