Growing Beets in Your Backyard

Beetroots or beets are one of the most nutrient-packed root vegetables. Besides, making a great addition to your family’s diet, beets can be used for medicinal purposes and as natural colouring agent. Therefore, if you want to reap all the healing powers of this superfood, try growing beets in your backyard.

Beet (Beta vulgaris) is a biennial, fast-growing, versatile plant that can be easily included in your vegetable garden. Though, cool weather (60 -65 degrees F) is optimal for growing beets, they tolerate a wide range of conditions. The best season to grow beets is either spring (March and April) or fall (June to September).

For good growth, plant beet seeds in well-drained, rich, light soil that is free from stones and clay. Beets, can tolerate a high soil pH, but they will perform better in a low soil pH to thrive, so get your soil tested and apply lime (if needed) to bring it to the recommended range of 6.2-6.8. Remember, there should be a gap of 30 days in between lime application and planting of beets.

Growing Beets in Your Backyard

As, beet seeds are slow to germinate, soak the seed clusters overnight to soften the shell and fasten the speed germination. Plant seeds, 1 inch deep and about 3 inches apart in rows, with each row about 15 inches apart. However, if you are interested in beet greens (primarily), plant seeds closely together (2 inches apart) in wide 2 to 3 foot beds, instead of rows to get high leaf yield. To avoid leaf spot disease and other insect problems, grow beets in full sun with good air circulation.

Not enough moisture and too much competition for space (from weeds and other plants), make beets stringy and tough. So, after planting beets, make sure the seeds get enough (about 1 inch) water every week to keep the soil moist but not saturated. Also, do thinning (soon after germination), to relieve early crowding and hand pulling of the weeds (time to time), to prevent them from crowding and deforming the roots.  Do you suffer from mineral deficiencies? What Is Your Soil Missing?

Start harvesting greens, when they are a couple of inches tall and most tender. Around 50-70 days after planting (depending on variety) beets will be ready for harvest. Tug or dig them, when they are small (1-2 inches in diameter) to get better flavour and texture. After harvesting, separate the leafy tops from the bulbous roots, leaving just about 1 inch of the stem attached to the bulb to preserve moisture. Beets are ideal cellar vegetables, as they can be stored for up to 4 months at freezing temperatures with high humidity.

Nutritional Value of Beets

Beets contain a variety of health-boosting nutrients such as vitamins (A, C, folate, thiamine, riboflavin, and pantothenic acid); minerals (iron, magnesium, potassium, copper, manganese, phosphorus); antioxidants (carotenoids, lutein/zeaxanthin, glycine, betaine, flavonoids called anthocyanins); and dietary fiber. Beet greens have even higher nutritional value, for being an excellent source of essential nutrients like protein, vitamin, mineral and fiber.

Health Benefits: Beets, the nutrient rich delicious super food, are good for your skin, bones, liver, kidneys, and pancreas. Beets are high nitrates which become nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide is a fascinating subject and was the topic of a nobel prize in Medicine in 1998. Nitric oxide or NO is a basic bioregulator in the human body, involved in blood flow, immune function and much more. Viagra is based on the principle of improving nitric oxide in the penis. Beets improve nitric oxide throughout the body for improved health, as shown below.

  1. Boosts Brain Health: Beets improve blood flow and oxygenation in certain areas of the brain, which help in slowing down the age related macular degeneration such as dementia. These are also rich in choline, a powerful anti-inflammatory compound that helps in boosting learning, memory and deep sleep.
  2. Improves Heart Health: Dietary fiber in beets helps in reducing bad cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides and increasing good cholesterol (HDL). This helps in lowering the risk of heart related problems such as atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes.
  3. Prevents Strokes: Vitamin-C and flavonoids in beets support capillary structure and fragility, which reduce chances of blood clotting or plaque formation along the walls of the blood vessels that eventually leads to heart attacks and strokes.
  4. Maintains Blood pressure: Potassium in beet helps in maintaining healthy nerve and muscle function by working as a vasodilator and relaxing the blood vessels. This helps in improving the blood flow, reducing blood pressure and maintaining it in the healthy range.
  5. Fights Inflammation: The antioxidant compounds in beets are found beneficial in fighting inflammation, protecting body from environmental stress and preventing chronic diseases.
  6. Anti-Cancer Properties: Phytonutrients and vitamins (A and C) in beets are natural antioxidants with strong anti-inflammatory properties. These compounds ward off certain cancers by defending free radical damage, inhibiting cell mutation and reducing cancerous cell growth.
  7. Supports Detoxification: Dietary fiber and phytochemicals in beets support detoxification process, which helps in purifying blood and stimulating the functions of the liver.
  8. Reduces Risk of Birth Defects: Beets are excellent source of vitamin B, folate that is essential for pregnant women to prevent neural tube defects in the developing baby.
  9. Boosts Immunity: Vitamin C in beets helps in strengthening the immune system and prevents several types of infections, allergies and illnesses.
  10. Delays Aging: Beta-carotene (vitamin A) in beets reduces macular degeneration caused by free radicals, which helps in preventing pre-mature aging and age-related blindness called cataracts.
  11. Improves Energy Levels: High carbohydrate content in beets provides sustained energy for efficient functioning of your body. Also, high nitrate content in beets increases oxygen uptake, which improves stamina and performance in sports.   Do you prefer grass or grain fed beef?

Beets are also found beneficial in treatment of anaemia, fever and digestive problems. Though, beets have high sugar content, most people can safely enjoy these, a few times a week in a variety of ways i.e. canned, pickled or frozen. To reap the amazing health benefits, remove the thin skin and slice them. Now, either add these slices to your salad or simply eat raw as a healthy snack with some salt, pepper and lemon juice. You can also steam or roast them to put in your soups and other savoury dishes. Enjoy fresh leaves and stems of beet tops in salads, vegetable juices and soups. If leaves are matured, steam or cook them with beets.

If you aren’t growing beets yet, they are worth the try, your growing beets in your backyard and your body both will appreciate the new addition.

Dr. Patrick Quillin

Dr. Patrick Quillin, PhD,RD,CNS is an internationally recognized expert in the area of nutrition and health. He has 30 years experience as a clinical nutritionist, of which 10 years were spent as the Vice President for a leading cancer hospital system where he worked with thousands of cancer patients in a hospital setting. He is a Best Selling Author with 18 books which have sold over 2,000,000 copies and also a Keynote Speaker.