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Beta vulgaris
Summer, fall and winter

In Our Garden

Bulls Blood
Grown primarily for its burgundy leaves, this variety adds beautiful foliage to both your garden and your plate.

These attractive candy-striped beets originate from the town of Chioggia, Italy and were probably brought to the US in the 1800s by Italian immigrants. They taste delicious raw, grated into a salad, or roasted with olive oil and fresh herbs. The Chioggia beet contains a higher content of geosmin, an organic compound which gives beets their earthy taste and smell.

In History

The beet that we know today is a form of the maritime sea beet chosen for its edible roots centuries ago. The vegetable was essential to both ancient Greek and Roman civilizations; in Greek times beet roots were long and sweet and in 300 BCE the philosopher Theophrastus reported them sweet enough to eat raw. Table beets are about 3% sugar, and beginning in the eighteenth century selection for sugar production led to sugar beets with up to 20% sucrose.


Growing Tips:
Like kale, beets will become woody and tough in warm weather, so harvest them before temperatures start to rise. The higher quality varieties grow in temperatures around 61˚F.

Overwatering your beets will result in excessive foliage and small roots, so be careful to irrigate in moderation if a sizable beetroot is your goal.

Harvesting Tips:
Depending upon which variety is being grown, harvest beets when they are between 1 and 4 inches in my diameter. Chioggia beets can be harvested when they are between 3 and 4 inches across.

Beet sap stains badly. It is wise to wear gloves while harvesting and preparing this intensely colored vegetable to avoid staining your hands.

Why It's Good for You

Beets owe their bright red color to betacyanin, which also acts as a potent cancer fighter. Beet greens are loaded with folate for heart health along with carotenes known to protect eyesight. Raw or steamed beet greens are high in Vitamin A, calcium and phosphorus.

Let's Eat

How to Buy:
Choose beets with firm, uniformly shaped roots. Avoid those that are irregularly shaped as it can be an indication of bolting, which produces a woody and bitter taste. The greens, if attached, should be a vibrant green and show no signs of browning or wilting.

How to Store:
If you have purchased your beets with the greens attached, remove them and use them within a day or two. The roots will keep refrigerated in plastic for about a week. Beets are also great pickled or canned and are fit for freezing.

How to Prepare:
Beets can be a tricky vegetable to prepare, as they will remain bitter if not completely cooked. They can be peeled ahead of time or the skin can also be easily removed after they are cooked. For a new twist try shredding peeled raw beets into your next salad.


Pest Management

Here is a list of common pests and diseases that may affect your beets in California. For more information follow the link provided to the University of California Integrated Pest Management website.
  • Beet leafhopper
    Their juice-sucking feeding habits can leave foliage mottles and yellow in appearance, but are relatively non-threatening to most plants. Leafhoppers are, however, good at spreading pathogens such as the curly top virus from one plant to another.
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  • Carrot weevil
    It can be difficult to pinpoint the vegetable weevil as both the adults and larvae are largely active at night. They do not fly, and this prevents damage from occurring rapidly…
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  • Earwig
    Think twice before squashing an earwig. While it can be a menace to seedlings and perfectly ripe fruit they play an important role in managing other garden pests, and it can be tricky to tell the difference between which variety helps and which variety harms your garden. Click below to find out which variety chomps on your plants, and which one just plain stinks…
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  • Garden webworm
    These leaf-eaters are appropriately named. They are notorious for webbing leaves together for shelter as they feed on the foliage of a wide variety of garden vegetables.
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  • Leafminer
    These are the small larvae of flies and moths that feed beneath the surface of the leaf, leaving behind signature twisting trails visible to the eye. Though they rarely cause serious damage to fruits or roots, they can lower the quality of leafy vegetables such as spinach and chard…
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  • Mite
    These tiny bugs can be hard to detect, and may go not even be noticed until they have departed! They come in several varieties and are a common pest to a wide range of vegetables and fruits. They suck the liquid out of plant foliage, and often leave yellowing at the feeding site. Often, plants will recover once the mites have left…
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  • Spinach flea beetle
    This leaf-jumper is double-trouble. The adults mainly feed on foliage while the larvae feed on stems and roots of tubers, exposing the plant to fungal infection.
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  • Whiteflies
    The nymphs and adults extract juices from plant leaves, causing them to turn brown and curl. They prefer warm climates, and reproduce very quickly under appropriate weather conditions…
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  • Wireworms
    Particularly partial to rich organic soil, these immature click beetles feed on seedling roots and tubers. They do not tend to damage mature plants…
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  • Snails/Slugs
    These garden gastronomes have a notorious taste for succulent flowers, foliage and ripening fruit --- with such a refined taste, it’s no wonder they are so delectable bathed in garlic butter!
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