Several factors make the difference in choosing varieties. One is days to maturity, which can vary considerably. Some beets are flavorful at all ages, while others are better young. Another is whether the beet is bred for long storage. A third is whether you are more interested in greens, beet roots or both.
Beet Variety Choices
Beets come in a variety of colors and shapes, which may affect when they’re ready to harvest.
- Detroit Dark Red – 60 days. Dark red and well adapted. Good for greens and roots.
- Chioggia – 50 days. Red and white striped, sweet taste.
- Formonova – 55 days. Dark red, shaped like a thick carrot and can be 8 inches long; Cylindra is very similar.
- Golden – 55 days. They taste just like red beets; greens are delicious.
- Lutz Green Leaf – 60 days. Tastes best when harvested small.
Unlike other vegetables, beets provide two crops. Beet greens are simply leaves; they can be used in salads or cooked. Greens can be harvested at any time, but are most tender when young. Greens can be harvested any time after they are six inches long. Don’t take all the greens, as the plant needs some to keep growing. Greens are even more nutritious than roots.
Harvesting Beet Roots
Although maturity varies from roughly 50 to 70 days (and sometimes longer), beets will be at their most tender when harvested young. You may be able to start harvesting as early as 45 days with some varieties. Although you can continue to harvest for a month or more, older beets tend to be tough and have a woody core.
Pull or Dig
You can pull smaller beets – say about 2 inches in diameter. It’s easier if the soil is damp. Grasp the beet by the leaves as close to the root as you can. You may want to dig larger beets. A bulb planting trowel is a good choice as its narrow blade can easily get between the closely spaced beet plants without damaging others nearby.
Beets will winter over in most climates, although they may need a mulch in really cold areas. They’ll be less tender, however – discard the woody core and julienne or dice to cook. Plant about one month prior to the first fall frost so they have adequate growing time but don’t get too big.