Lettuce rest, I’m feeling beet.

– Shel Silverstein

What are Beets?

Beets, a common garden vegetable, originally grown only for their leaves, have been cultivated for thousands of years.   Now, both the leaves and the beet roots are eaten. Beet root has a sweet flavour and a tender texture. Beet leaves are similar to spinach or chard. Both the root and the leaves can be eaten raw or cooked.

Picture of Beets

Growing Your Own Beets:

Beets grow well in the cooler, moist weather of the spring and fall.  They do not like hot dry weather so watering is essential.

If you plant beet seeds in early spring, and continue to plant at 3 to 4 week intervals, you will have fresh beets all summer long.  Plant the seeds about 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart, and about 1/2 inch deep.  Once the beets begin to grow, thinning becomes necessary.  Save the thinnings and cook them like spinach or chard.  You can even keep the beet attached.

Because the root is quite shallow, beets don’t like weeds.  They need to compete with the weeds for nutrients and water.  Therefore, you need to make sure your beets are always weeded.

Beets usually take about 60 days to get to 1 1/2 inches in diameter.  Larger beets tend to be tough and fibrous.

Beet Varieties:

There are many beet varieties.   Traditionally, they have had a deep red or purple colour, but now yellow, white, and striped beets varieties are commonly available.  Check out this photo showing the rainbow of beet colours.  Some beets varieties are grown for shape instead of colour.  There are mini beets great for salads and garnishes, and there are cylinder shaped beets where every slice is the same size.


Fresh beets are in season from late spring through to late fall.

Storing Beets:

Don’t wash your beets before storing them.  Beet roots can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.  Beet tops can be stored for about 4 days.  Read my post on beet storage for more details.

Preserving Beets:

Beets are versatile vegetables and there are many ways in which they can be preserved if you cannot use them while they are fresh.  Beets can be canned, pickled, frozen or even dried.

Freezing Beets:

The following process can be used to freeze beets:

  1. Wash and trim the beets.  Leave about an inch of the tops and the root intake.  This will prevent the colour from bleeding out of the beets when they are cooked.
  2. Cook in boiling water until tender.  For large beets, this could take as long as 45 – 60 minutes.
  3. Once cooked, plunge the beets into ice water.  The skin can then be easily rubbed away.  Trim the remaining top and root.
  4. Cut into cubes or slices.
  5. Freeze for up to 1 year.

Cooking with Beets:


Before cooking, wash the beets gently to remove any dirt. Make sure you don’t pierce the skin. Cook beet roots whole and unpeeled. Leaving the beets unpeeled reduces the amount of colour that comes out during cooking. It also helps to retain nutritents.

Beets can be boiled, steamed, roasted or even grilled. They can then be served hot or cold.

Once the beets are cooked, wait until they are cool enough to handle, and then remove the roots and stems. Remember that when chopping or slicing beets, the juices can stain. To remove the beet stains, Julia Child recommended rubbing the stained areas with salt, rinsing, and then scrubbing with soap.


Beet leaves (or greens) can be eaten raw in salads or cooked just like spinach, collards or chard.  Before using beet greens, be sure to wash them thoroughly to remove any sand or grit.

Beet Recipes:

  1. Roasted Beet Ice Cream
  2. Salad with Roasted Beets, Goat Cheese & Sugared Pecans
  3. Beet Hummus
  4. Chocolate and Roasted Beet Pudding
  5. Beet Ravioli with Goat Cheese, Ricotta and Mint Filling
  6. Beet Soup
  7. Beet Greens
  8. Braised Whole Baby Beets

Beet Nutrition:


Beets are highly nutritious.  According to Health Canada, half a cup (125 ml) of beet greens contains

  • 1.96 g of protein,
  • 2.2 g of fibre,
  • 87 mg of calcium,
  • 1.45 mg of iron,
  • 19 mg of vitamin C,
  • 3880 IU of vitamin A.

[nutr-label servingsize=’1/2 cup (125 ml)’ servings=’1′ calories=’19’ totalfat=’0′ satfat=’0′ transfat=’0′ cholesterol=’0′ sodium=’0.174 ‘ carbohydrates=’4′ fiber=’2′ sugars=’0′ protein=’2’]


Half a cup of boiled roots contains

  • 1.8 g of fibre,
  • 274 mg of potassium
  • 72 micrograms of folate.

[nutr-label servingsize=’1/2 cup (125 ml)’ servings=’1′ calories=’37’ totalfat=’0′ satfat=’0′ transfat=’0′ cholesterol=’0′ sodium=’65 ‘ carbohydrates=’8′ fiber=’2′ sugars=’7′ protein=’1’]

Source: NutritionData

Health Issues:


Sometimes eating beets can cause urine to become red or pink in colour.  Generally, this is not considered harmful.  However, people who have trouble metabolizing iron (iron deficiencies or excesses) are more likely to experience beeturia, so it may be an indication of an underlying health issue.

The red colour may also show up in bowel movements (particularly in children).  Again, this is not harmful.  Just be certain that the red colour is from the beets and not from blood.


Beet greens contain very high levels of chemicals called oxalates.  If oxalates become too concentrated in bodily fluids, they can crystalize and cause health issues.  People who have kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating beet greens.

What Do You Think?

Do you like to eat beets?  How do you like cook them?

If you found this post useful, please leave a comment.

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