Beets, also known as known botanically as Beta vulgaris, are edible and medicinal root vegetables native to the Meddeteramian region of the world. Their species range from rich dark shades of reds, yellow, white, even candy-striped! Many complain that beets have an “earthy” taste, which isn’t far off the mark. Beets contain a substance called geosmin, which is responsible for that fresh soil scent in your garden following a spring rain. Humans are quite sensitive to geosmin, even in very low doses, which explains why our beet response ranges from one extreme to the other.
Mankind has been eating beet greens since before written history, but the bulb or root was only ever used for medicinal purposes until the rise of the Roman Empire, and only ever became internationally famous when french chefs began to appreciate the appeal of roasted beets in the 1800s. But medicine and food is only a small portion of the beetroots wide range of applications. Although ¾ of the world’s beet produce goes straight into canning and pickling, they provide many more helpful uses such as dyes, sugars, even makeup.
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Order: Caryophyllales
- Family: Amaranthaceae
- Genus: Beta
- Species: B. Vulgaris
- Binomial Name: Beta vulgaris
- Beets are also sensitive to soils deficient in boron. Have your soil tested or ask your county Extension agent about boron deficiencies in your area.
- The biggest beet in the world was grown by a Dutchman. It weighed over 156 pounds
- Beets have also been shown to support the detoxification process in the body. The betalain compound found in beets, which gives them their red color, helps to capture troublesome toxins and flush them out of the system via the urinary tract.
- Eating raw beets or drinking beet juice helps combat garlic breath
- Because beetroot juice helps cleanse the liver, it also helps reduce hangover symptoms.
- Beets have the highest sugar content of any vegetable
- As recently as the early 20th century, the phrase “taking favors in the beetroot fields” was a popular euphemism for prostitution.
- Beets can cause “beeturia”
- Geosmin: an organic compound with a distinct earthy flavor and aroma produced by certain bacteria, and is responsible for the earthy taste of beetroots and a contributor to the strong scent (petrichor) that occurs in the air when rain falls after a dry spell of weather or when soil is disturbed.
- Boron: a mineral that is found in food and the environment. Boron is used for building strong bones, treating osteoarthritis, as an aid for building muscles and increasing testosterone levels, and for improving thinking skills and muscle coordination.
- Betalain: a class of red and yellow indole-derived pigments found in plants of the Caryophyllales, where they replace anthocyanin pigments
- Beeturia: the passing of red or pink urine after eating beetroots or foods colored with beetroot extract or beetroot pigments. The color is caused by the excretion of betalain (betacyanin) pigments such as betanin.
Beet Buying Guide
Avoid beets with soft, moist spots or shriveled, flabby skin. The taproot, which extends from the bulbous part of the beet, should be slender. When choosing your beets, pick equal-sized ones so that they will cook evenly. If the leaves are attached, they should be small, crisp, and dark green.
Beet Production & Farming in Texas
Beets grow best in cool temperature, in the spring and fall seasons and typically do not need much room to grow and can survive with only partial sunlight, making them perfect home garden plants. Due to Texas’ mild winters beets have the potential to grow constantly through the winter with the correct care. Such as ensuring the soil is well-drained and the temperature remains at least 40F.
Sowing beets in the fall/winter months is different from planting in the spring. It all down to the soil and how to control its temperature. Sandy soil will be able to absorb more warmth than heavy clay soil that can repress the growth of the beet. On land that consists mostly of poorly-drained, clay soil, you can build ridges in the dirt assuring decent water drainage and good airflow. They should be planted ½” in and 1-2” apart. You should see sprouts within 7-14 days.
To fertilize scatter 1 cup of fertilizer for every 10 ft of row. If you have a lot of clay soil, consider adding compost. Mix the fertilizer about 4 inches into the soil with a rake. Scatter 1 tablespoon of fertilizer for every 10 feet of row beside the plants when they are 4 to 6 inches tall. Water adequate weekly if no rain is present. They should be ready to harvest 7-8 weeks after planting.
Remove greens immediately if you intend to use them. They will hold 1-2 days in a plastic bag in the fridge. Roots will keep 1-2 weeks.
Beets are thin-skinned and grow underground and absorb pesticides and heavy metals.
Ancient Greeks cultivated beetroot around 300 BC. Today Russia is the world’s largest producer of beets. Followed by France then the United States.
In the US beet production occurs in the Upper Great Plains (north-central Wyoming, Montana, and western North Dakota) and Central Grain Plains (southeastern Wyoming, Colorado, and Nebraska). This region typically accounts for about one-eighth of the national planted area.
Store beets in the refrigerator placed in a perforated plastic bag in the vegetable crisper drawer. Beets will keep in the refrigerator for 1 to 3 months. If there is no room in the refrigerator, beets can also be packed in a container—a bucket or plastic storage box or cooler–in moist sand, peat moss, or sawdust.
Beets can be eaten raw, cooking many ways, fermented, pickled, juiced and much more. Around ⅔ of the world’s beet production is preserved through some form of canning, pickling, or fermenting. But beets can also be used for a number of dyes in and outside of the kitchen. Such as icing, macaroons, tomato sauce, clothing, makeup and more.
Beets are so good for us because of their high ratio of nutrients to low number of calories along with their rich vitamin and mineral count. 100 grams on raw beet will contain the following:
Along with the following vitamins & minerals:
Folate(Vitamine B9): Important for normal tissue growth and function
Manganese: Is required for the normal functioning of your brain, nervous system and many of your body’s enzyme systems.
Potassium: High potassium levels can reduce blood pressure and has positive effects on the heart.
Iron: Primarily responsible for transporting oxygen around the blood.
Vitamin C: Great for the immune system and skincare
Some studies even show that beetroot juice can improve athletic performance and help with sore muscles that come with heavy exercise through factors such as iron and nitrates, that will increase blood flow and ensure more oxygen gets passed around your body, therefore, increasing endurance and even cognitive function. In this same way, beetroot could potentially decrease brain decline that comes with aging, being a possible key factor in fighting brain disorders associated with decline such as dementia. However clinical trials are yet to surprise us.
Betalains is another pigment in beetroot that is known to fight inflammation in rats. Successful human studies are still to be put underway.
Beetroots high fiber content can link to improved digestive health. After all, fiber fuels the colon cells and keeps the digestive tract flowing smoothly.
Last but not least beetroot can help maintain a healthy and in some cases help lose weight due to their low-calorie and high water ratio, giving a better feeling of “fullness” after a meal.
When Are Beets in Season in Texas?
To find out when Beets are in season in Texas, please check the seasonal chart below. Why is this important? We are rarely encouraged to think about the physical lengths our food travels before arriving on the market shelves. And all of this travel comes with a hefty environmental cost that is concealed from the consumer’s eye. One of the most salient benefits to eating seasonally is that you are effectively reducing your carbon footprint and supporting a more geographically sustainable food economy. Check other fruit and veg that’s in season in Texas now.