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Diggin' It

How to grow and prepare beets

A gardener and a chef team up to show you how to grow beets and then use them in a delicious salad.

By Anne K. Moore and Linda Weiss / March 7, 2011

Use home-grown beets in a delicious salad. First, roast them, then place the quartered beets atop baby greens and sprinkle with Feta cheese and homemade raspberry vinaigrette for a springtime treat.

Courtesy of Robert Shober

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Southerners have known the goodness of many different kinds of greens for generations. Since I (Anne) grew up “up North,” spinach was the only type of greens I was acquainted with.

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One that is grown mainly for its bulbous root over most of the country is the beet. And yet, historically, beets were originally grown for their tops. (If you use heirloom seed, you might be disappointed in the size of the root. Check descriptions carefully when purchasing seed if you want to have large bulbous roots.)

How to grow beets from seed

Beet seed is actually a hard capsule that contains several seeds. If you soak the seed for 24 hours, you will get quicker germination.

Beets need a soft growing area so their roots will mature correctly. Prepare a seed bed deeply in a well-drained area. Add plenty of compost to improve either clay or sandy soils.

Sow the beet seeds 1/2 to 3/4 inches deep, three inches apart, in rows two to three feet apart. Keep the soil moist but not wet.

The most critical thing to do when growing beets is to snip off all but one beet plant seedling so the bulb will have room to grow.

Since beet seed is actually several seeds in a cluster, you have to thin the seedlings by cutting off all but the strongest plant in each planting hole. Do not pull them; you can damage the roots of the plant you want to save.

Begin thinning when seedlings are about four to five inches tall, and eat the thinnings. Thin to three to four inches if you plan to harvest young, small, or cylindrical-shaped roots, or six-inch spacing for larger roots.

Beets tolerate temperatures to 40 degrees F. (4 C), so plant them early in the spring. You can also plant them for a late fall crop.

I love beets and usually eat them boiled or pickled. Chef Linda’s beet salad recipe coming up next is new, different, and delicious.

Recipe: Roasted Beets on Baby Greens with Feta & Raspberry Vinaigrette

My (Linda's) first recollection of beets was from a narrow antique serving dish on the dining room table of my grandmother’s home in Mobile, Ala. The only recipe that she made back then was Harvard Beets, with an orange sauce.

The beets were good, but that was pretty much what you saw on the tables of Southern homes, either Harvard Beets, sliced beets, or pickled beets.

These days there are not only many different ways to prepare beets but different colors of beets as well. Today, I’m giving you a recipe for a red beet salad, but if you want to use orange beets, you sure can. Use what you have.

I hope that you enjoy this recipe. For the recipe for delicious beet greens, please e-mail me through my website and I’ll be happy to send the recipe.

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