Beets

I’m working on our seed order, which seems a fine thing to do when it’s minus two degrees outside and we’re covered in snow.

We had our annual detailed end-of-year farm review a few days ago, and decided to continue growing and marketing vegetables as before, albeit in a more concentrated way in fewer gardens. We’re going to add more chickens, to replace those we lost to predators and old age. We’re not going to raise any pigs this year. We’re going to continue as usual with the goats. And we’re going to go on vacation again in September. It’s a good plan.

I enjoy planning the gardens and ordering the seeds. As I say every year, this is the time of year when the gardens are all imaginary, so they’re weed-free, safe from deer and producing abundantly. Because of fantasies like that I usually order too much seed and plant more than we can well tend. I’m trying to be better this year.

I’m thinking about beets this morning. Over the years we’ve tried several varieties–Detroit Dark Red, Zeppo, Red Ace, Bull’s Blood and Lutz Green Leaf, among others. But my favorite continues to be Early Wonder Tall Top. I think it’s the only beet we’re going to plant this year. It always seems to do well for us, producing good roots and good greens. I will happily welcome any opinions on the subject.

Beets have an interesting history. They grew wild along the Mediterranean shores of Europe and North Africa and the greens were widely eaten by prehistoric people in that region. The Romans are credited with being the first to begin eating the roots. Romans carried beets along as they conquered northern Europe, where they became popular among the tamed barbarians, but primarily as animal fodder at first. By the 16th century their popularity as people food began to rise.

In the 1800’s the popularity of beets soared when it was discovered that they were an excellent source of sugar. Napoleon required that they be used as the primary source of sugar in France, due to British control of the sugar cane trade.

These days most of the sugar consumed in the U.S. (and probably the world) comes from sugar beets, not sugar cane. And 95% of the sugar beets grown in the U.S. are GMOs, genetically modified by Monsanto to be resistant to Roundup (glyphosate). So while folks like us are weeding our beets (a necessary and tedious job), the industrial sugar producers are just dowsing theirs with Roundup. If you’d rather avoid GMO food, it’s important to source cane sugar or organic sugar. Otherwise you’re almost certainly eating GMO beet sugar.

For any of you who haven’t tried them, I highly recommend beet greens. I actually prefer them to the root. It’s a shame, in my opinion, that so many people cut the tops off the beets and just throw them away. So when you see them at the farmer’s market, look for bunches of beets with the tops still attached!

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33 comments on “Beets

  1. shoreacres says:

    Sooooo…. (With apologies to Sonny and Cher), we might say that the beet goes on!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Bill says:

      That would’ve been a good title for the post. I’m sorry I didn’t think of it. Coming up with clever titles isn’t a strength of mine. I actually tried to think of something but what kept coming to mind was We’ve Got the Beets (remember the Go-Go’s?) and that just didn’t seem to work. Finally, in frustration I just typed “Beets” and hit Publish.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I did not know about the sugar thing! I love fresh produce from the garden. ❤
    Diana xo

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  3. Ed says:

    Living in the midwest, I don’t see beets anymore. I remember being forced to eat candied beets when I was a child at my grandparent’s thanksgivings but since that time, I don’t think I’ve eaten one. I would if I had one now but they aren’t sold in the grocery stores or raised in the gardens here these days.

    When I lived for a number of years in Minnesota, I was amazed at the beet farming operations up there and the mountains of beets they produced for sugar.

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    • Bill says:

      Pickled beets are popular here, but we like them best roasted, usually in a mix of other root veggies. The greens saute easily and are delicious. We grow them in the spring and in the fall. Maybe someone will have some at your farmers market this year and you can try them again!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. avwalters says:

    Roasted beets. Ah, hot from the oven, bagged and then slipped out of their skins in time for dinner. Ruby, golden, hot or cold, nothing beats beets–a dab of butter and a liberal dose of pepper and you’re in the culinary equivalent of a nostalgic wet dream. I grew them in California as a staple in the garden. Greens in summer, beets all winter long. Here, the damn rabbits and grasshoppers get to them when they’re barely out of the ground. Beets are the reason we decided to go with raised beds (and covers.)

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  5. We love beets too and along with the tops. One of my favorite vegetables, so many things you can do with them.

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    • Bill says:

      It’s surprising to me how few people around here know the greens are edible. When I’ve recommended them a few people have looked at me as if I’d lost my mind. But we’ve also made some converts. Good eatin’ for sure. 🙂

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  6. Glad to hear you’re still going to market. I think you’d miss it if you didn’t!

    This is the first year I exceeded my seed budget—and that’s despite the fact that I cut way back. I’m appalled at some of the seed prices I’m coming across. When on earth did seeds become $4 a pack????????????????????????????

    Ah well. That $100 investment reaps THOUSANDS in organic vegetables. Good deal, I guess!
    (Hubby -the smarty pants–had to just remind me that SOME of that budget is flowers. Food for the soul, says me!)

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    • Bill says:

      While some seeds continue to be very inexpensive (we can get spinach and most other greens at our local feed store for $1/oz), some seem crazy high, especially some of the hybrids from Johnny’s. But when I thought about how much food we get from the seeds I realized that in fact they’re still dirt cheap!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Michelle says:

    Beet tops are my favorite greens! And Chioggia beets are my favorite variety.

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  8. Love beets and have grown them.
    95% of US sugar comes from beets? Didn’t know that. And Roundup resistant beets? Didn’t know that either. Is anything safe to eat?

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    • Michelle says:

      Yep, sugar beets are one of the “Top Four” GMO crops; the others are corn, soybeans, and canola. And wheat, although not GMO, is routinely sprayed with RoundUp close to harvest to make it “ripen” uniformly, and is thus contaminated with glyphosate residuals. I will only buy GMO-free things with those ingredients, or not buy; fortunately, they have become easier to find. Fellow Oregonian Bob’s Red Mill is committed to only sourcing GMO-free products, so I buy their flour, cornmeal, cornstarch, and TVP as needed.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Bill says:

      I’m not how much of US sugar comes from beets. Definitely the majority of it. But 95% of sugar beets are GMO (Roundup resistant). Probably more like 99%.
      All sweetened junk food is going to have either GMO corn syrup or GMO beet sugar in it. That’s why you have to be careful to look specifically for cane sugar or organic sugar if you want to avoid eating food that’s been sprayed with glyphosate.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Interesting article again… I haven’t grown beets since working in myparents and grandparents gardens as a child but had decided to grow them this year as I”m using them more in my smoothies these days. It’s hard to find them in the organic sections off season.

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  10. NebraskaDave says:

    Bill, I’m not a big fan of beets and can’t remember the last time I ate any. I have thought about growing a few just to see if I like them with my adult taste buds. Ed is right about not finding any gardens with beets growing in the Midwest. The roadside stands concentrate on sweet corn and tomatoes big time.

    Have a great beet seed ordering day.

    Nebraska Dave

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    • Bill says:

      When I was growing up I HATED black eyed peas. Yuck. But now I eat bowls full at a time and love them. So maybe the same thing will happen to you with beets. 🙂

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  11. Joanna says:

    I love roasted or boiled beets. I only ever knew pickled beets as a child and wasn’t overly keen. We also eat the greens sometimes or give them to the chickens for some rather nice orange yolks. They definitely don’t go to waste 🙂 I really must get my seed order in, maybe tomorrow

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    • Bill says:

      Good call on giving the tops to the chickens. Nothing goes to waste here either. If we don’t eat it, the animals do. If they animals won’t eat it, we compost it.
      I was thinking of you today as I was slogging through the snow and ice. It occurred to me that for you (and many other people) it would just be another routine winter day. We had record cold two nights ago (-2 F) and the forecast is for highs in the high 60’s in a couple of days. That’s Virginia in the winter.

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      • Joanna says:

        Lol although this winter has been worse than normal for coming and going. If it would just come and stop that would be much easier and then we only have to go through the mud in spring. Give me the cold any day over mud.

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  12. thesnowwoman says:

    I love beets! When I was a kid in Newfoundland we always ate beets and the tops. And the most popular green to find from a market or grocery store was turnip tops. Those were eaten boiled or steamed.

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    • Bill says:

      So interesting. When I was growing up here in Virginia we ate a lot of turnip greens. They were just about the only cooked green we ate. We called them “salad” (or “sallet”). I never knew anyone to eat beet greens back then.

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  13. We love Early Wonder Tall Tops. I’ve grown some other kinds, but always end up back with those. We like the taste, and also how well they grow in our cool springs out here in Oregon.

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