"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Let's Eat Some Beets

So you don't like beets? Good news! You're probably in the U.S. majority - just not at our house. We absolutely love beets. We love the beet's fresh greens added to our daily salads or steamed with a dab of butter. We love to force a beet in the middle of winter on a sunny window sill and then cut the tops into a salad finishing it off with the grated root...yes, raw. Those roots are not too bad cooked either.:)

Your average disliked beet contains numerous vitamins (especially the greens), minerals, energy giving carbohydrates, sugar, fiber (most Americans could use a little more fiber), sodium, and fatty and amino acids that will help build the muscles necessary to raise your own beets. All of these compounds make your average homegrown, organically of course, beet a nutritional powerhouse that can single handily help stave off many of today's serious health ailments. How does that saying go "A beet a day keeps the Doctor away."...something like that.

We harvested well over 400 beets the other day and will easily consume them all before June of next year. Our beets are always harvested before carrots, parsnips, and Belgian endive as they tend to stick up out of the ground and too hard a frost could damage them. After cutting the tops off about 1" from the stem the beets are then layered in damp sand in coolers and totes in the root cellar. They will usually keep this way until late May sometimes June. The best of the greens are blanched and frozen and the rest go to the chickens. We grew cylindrical, bulls blood, albino, golden, red and yellow mangles, lutz, chioggia, and early wonder beets. None of our beets grew very big this year but most were of adequate size. Actually, the golden beets were once again pretty wimpy but I like them so much that I will continue to try and grow them in the future.

New to us, these yellow mangles seemed to do really well, although I have not tasted them yet.

Our two faithful standbys, cylindrical and chiogga. Chioggia is not my favorite but always performs well in our garden. I love cooking with the cylindrical beets, so very easy to work with.

One of my all time favorite beets - Bulls Blood. If hilled in these will often survive in the garden until spring, and the greens (reds) can be eaten all winter long. And because of the name our grandson loves to eat them raw and show off his "bloody" teeth.

Did you know that a simple way to make your own sugar is to simply cook your strained beets juices down until they are as thick as honey, cool to crystallize, and voila! Home grown sugar. I'm am going to try it this winter with my white beets.


Julie said...

Your idea about cooking down beet juice to make your own sugar intrigues me. I tried to find instructions for producing sugar from home grown sugar beets and it looks so complicated I gave up the idea. So be sure to keep us posted as producing your own sugar could be a terrific idea.

el said...

Ah, beets! I alone will eat them here.

I grow 2 varieties you don't: Detroit Dark Red (very reliable, get quite huge) and Three-Root Grex, which throw either red, yellow or orangy-yellow beets. I saved seed from this variety this year so I will gladly send you some.

Oh and Mike? The one thing that does terribly well in the greenhouse all winter is beets! No digging and stuffing 'em in the basement, where I tend to forget about them. It makes me really happy when they start growing new leaves at the end of January because I know the end of winter isn't too far off. Carrots are absurdly happy in the unheated greenhouse too.

Stefaneener said...

I like beets, especially cooked and in salad with goat cheese.

You make me laugh -- your own muscles to grow your own beets! We have such issues with leaf miners that I've stopped growing them but now I have some row cover and know what the eggs look like, I'm going to give it another try.

Sugar from beets -- interesting. I'd sure like to see the results of that.

randi said...

Beets! Can't beat 'em...I used to only enjoy the greens but now I've become a convert of the root.
Grew a few chiogga and detroit with minimal success but enough to whet my appetite to continue to grow LOTS more. Any other hints on growing please send our way. Good Job!

wendy said...

I've been thinking of trying the same thing with beets too, but I'm waiting until next fall after I've grown some white beets to try it out. What made me think of trying it was I went to a middle eastern grocery store once and they had lots of different sugar syrups I had not seen before like grape, date, etc. All made from boiled down juice. They all tasted good too. I'm thinking that beet syrup would be just like that too...Yummy. I'm thinking that the syrups could be used just like when you use honey instead of cane sugar in a recipe. Anyway, good luck!

Accidental Huswife said...

Wow, I continue to be amazed at the massive amounts of veggies you grow.

Silke said...

Hi Mike, I've been so remiss in visiting everybody's blogs, but I just spend some serious time reading your last few posts.

Your potatoes look amazing. Looking at your photos reminds me of the bi-weekly farmers market in my home town in Germany, where you could easily choose between 10 types of potatoes at each vegetable stand.

And I had forgotten about Cardoon until I red your post about it. We grew it in New Mexico, where it did really well.

And beets...I am so envious! We both love, love, love beets! I even love beet juice! Our favorite way of preparing them is making a salad out of roasted beets - it makes them even sweeter and still keeps their earthy flavor!

I hope you and Mrs. H. are doing great and keeping up with the harvest!! :) Silke

Mr. H. said...


If I try t this winter, and I do hope to, I will definately share how it turned out.

Mr. H. said...


When my wife and I were first married she would not go near beets...she hated them and said they tasted like dirt. Sloooowly over the next couple years she learned to first eat them, one little itty bite at a time, and then eventually actually like them. The same with carrots and squash, you see she was not raised on any of these foods and it took her a while to adapt to the texture and flavor of actual real food.

Of course, the difference might be that she really wanted to like this stuff, so I was able to get her to at least try. Now she absolutely loves all three and I am in big trouble if there are not beets and carrots on every salad.

I'm so glad that I don't have any food issues. Throw anything, whether I have ever eaten it or not, on my plate and I will most likely enjoy every bite.

I can't wait to someday have a proper hoop house so that I can also over- winter things like carrots and beets. I bet they do taste much better that way.

I would definitely be interested in the Three-Root Grex. I had to look it up as I have never heard of this beet before. Thanks!

Mr. H. said...


Anything tastes good with goat cheese, and beets and goat cheese really sounds good. And it's true you know, the more numerous and bigger the beets are the larger your biceps get:)

I really paid attention to the leaf-miners this year and realized that although they did badly damage my chard and beet greens in the spring and again in the summer now everything looks fine, they're done in for the year and the chard is finally looking great. I guess my best defense with them was patience.

Mr. H. said...


And they are so healthy, beets are often attributed to the long lives of some Russian peoples who live to be centurions. I believe it, as their nutritional profile is pretty darn impressive.

Mr. H. said...


I am looking forward to finding out, The recipe I have is for crystalized beet sugar, but a sweet beet syrup might be just as good and easier to make...I'll keep that in mind.

Mr. H. said...

Accidental Huswife,

We do grow quite a bit, but the garden is literally our grocery store these days. We were also blessed with exceptionally good weather this summer, and that always helps.

Mr. H. said...


Arn't multi colored potatoes great! I knew you would like beets as they are/were such an important part of the German diet.

We are struggling with the harvest, but will soon have it under control. Our biggest issue is getting it all processed and put away. Lucky us.

daylesford organics said...

Great post and pics as usual. I love visiting your blog and watching the other end of the season. We are pricking out onions you are harvesting beets. We actually leave what we don't use or sell in the ground over winter and pick as we need them. We have severe cold and frost but it doesn't seem to make too much of a difference to the taste. Last night we had a dinner of last season's roasted beets, onions and potatoes and in the next month we hope to get all these back into the ground (if it's not too wet). We grow about 10 varieties but our favourite and most reliable is the Detroit Dark Red. i hope you have a great weekend.

Mr. H. said...

daylesford organics,

We leave any small beets, carrots, onions, and so on in the ground as well, but can only get to them in the early spring. My problem with overwintering things in the garden is the massive amount of snow we sometimes get...over 100 inches last year.

I'll have to try the Detroit beets next year, I bought seeds but never did plant them for some reason.

Good luck with all the upcoming planting.

Michelle said...

Beets are well loved in this household also. I'm having a heck of a time with Burpee's Golden beets, they're slow to germinate and then they just don't seem to thrive. I got Golden Grex beets to grow but didn't like the taste and didn't like that they only had gold skin, the interiors are white. I'm still searching for a good golden beet. So far, Chioggia has been my favorite.

Mr. H. said...


I glad to hear that I'm not the only one with golden beet issues. I have never had much luck with them but continue to try as I really like the flavor.

LynnS said...

Mike I thought Idaho had a large sugar beet industry. In fact, aren't the beets one of the next GMO foods slated for the farm-factories?

I have some beets growing now for late fall/winter. Never tried grating the beets raw for a salad, but it sounds delicious. Love the greens, though.

And the 'bloody teeth' sounds especially interesting. Perhaps for Halloween....perhaps not.....


Mr. H. said...


This is really sad, yes Idaho does have a big sugar beet industry but until you mentioned it I was unaware of it. Just goes to show you how much attention I pay to what is going on in my home state.

You have got to try beets grated raw on a salad...beets, squash, kholrabi, turnips, even parsnips are great that way.

I would suggest a slightly more dainty chioggia beet for the grand daughter.:)

Anonymous said...

When I was a little girl in Wyoming, we used to drive to pick up beets that fell off the trains on their way to the Holly Sugar factory. My grandma would add the beets to her (made from scratch) chocolate cakes. Ohh, they were so good. I might try that some day. I might also try a beet or two in my little backyard garden in the spring.


Mr. H. said...


Micki made a chocolate cake out of black beans a while back...it was really good, I was surprised. A cake made with beets as an ingredient sounds right up our alley, we love stuff like that.

Aren't Grandma's great. Mine used to make me little apple and berry pies from foraged fruits out of pot pie TV dinner tins.:)

Related Posts with Thumbnails