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The Color of Beets

Red beets.

Beets come in many colors – white, golden, red, purple and even candy-striped. Plus, the bright green tops are edible too! Plant a rainbow in your own garden by planting a mixture of varieties like Red Ace, red beets with red-veined leaves; Kestrel, deep red, sweet baby beets; Bull’s Blood, a dark red beet used for the tops; Touchstone Gold, a beet with a bright gold inside and green tops; and Guardsmark Chioggia, an Italian heirloom beet variety that is exceptionally sweet and  has concentric rings of white and red inside.

Beets are a cool-season crop harvested for their leaves and roots. Start planting beets in April and seed or transplant every two weeks; however, remember that extended hot, dry weather will not produce quality beets. Beets are an excellent fall crop that can be seeded in August for harvest in October. While beets can tolerate partial shade, they don’t grow successfully with uneven moisture or crowding. Loose soil high in organic matter is best for beets, and keep them covered with soil as they grow to avoid a tough, corky layer from developing. Beets are botanically related to spinach and Swiss chard, so avoid planting beets in the same areas you had these crops for about two years. Harvest when beets are between 1 and 3 inches in diameter.

This vegetable is a great source of folate, fiber, manganese, potassium, iron and vitamin C. But, the true power of beets  is in their color, which comes from a chemical called betalain. Betalain is a natural, water-soluble red dye that is used in many foods and cosmetics. Red and yellow beets provide natural antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties. The stronger the color, the more healthy chemicals are in the vegetable. Eating beets and their greens also can help reduce cholesterol.

By Karen Cox, WVU Extension Agent – Ohio County