harvesting-beets

Tips on Harvesting Beets

Beets give you two crops for the price of one – greens and roots. Harvesting tips differ depending on which of the two you want as well as the beet variety and the season of the year.

–-Growing Conditions and Harvesting

Days to maturity is only an estimate. Beets planted in very cold soils may take longer to germinate and mature, while in summer, they may rush to maturity. Pay attention to the appearance and size of the root “shoulders” that show above ground. The shoulders are a good indication of whether the beet is of a size to harvest.

Short-Season Varieties

These beets are bred to grow as quickly as possible. Timing the harvest is important to prevent them becoming tough. Don’t let them go too long past the expected days to maturity.

  • Early Wonder (open-pollinated) – 52 days. Dark red, flattened globe shape.
  • Gladiator (hybrid) – 48 days. Deep red with fine-grained flesh.
  • Little Chicago (hybrid) – 50 days. A mini-beet.

Long-Season Varieties

These beets often get larger than their smaller cousins, grow more slowly and may be used for overwintering in the garden.

  • Lutz Green Leaf (open-pollinated) – 70 days. Deep reddish purple. An open-pollinated heirloom. The roots will remain tender even when quite large and it stores very well.
  • Ruby Queen (open-pollinated) – 60 days. Fine-grained, round and tender.
  • Green Top Bunching (open-pollinated) – 65 days. A cool weather beet; the tops make excellent greens.

Harvesting Beet Roots

How you harvest beet roots depends primarily on size. Small roots about 2 inches in diameter can usually be pulled by hand. As they grow larger, it may be better to use a trowel to prevent the beet from breaking off where the root is attached to the leaves.

Harvesting Beet Greens

You can start to harvest beet leaves as soon as they are at least 6 inches long. Very large leaves are more likely to be tough. Harvest two or three leaves per beet if you plan to let the beet continue to grow. A pair of sharp scissors is the easiest way to harvest beet leaves.

Harvest and Storage Issues

If you plan to store your beet roots in the refrigerator, clip off the tops about one inch above the roots. Wash both roots and tops, and store in plastic bags. For root cellar storage, clip the tops but don’t wash roots, just brush off excess soil. Don’t let them freeze and keep humidity high – around 95 percent. Leaves cannot be stored in a root cellar.