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Want to Grow a Root? Beets Are Hard to Beat

Want to Grow a Root? Beets Are Hard to Beat
Want to Grow a Root? Beets Are Hard to Beat

Advice for raising a colorful and nutritious vegetable. >> Click on MP3 link for audio and transcript.

Correction attached

This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

People might think that beets are always dark red. But this tasty root vegetable also comes in other colors. There are pink, yellow and white beets, and beets with circles of red and white inside. These are known as candy cane or candy stripe beets.

Beets are high in nutrients including folate, iron and fiber. They can be eaten fresh or frozen, canned or pickled. And not just the root but also the tops can be eaten. The leaves make good salads when the plants are young, and the greens can be cooked when the plants are older.

Beets do not require much work to grow. They like cool temperatures, between sixteen and eighteen degrees Celsius. They grow best in full sun and in loose soil that is not too wet.

Remove stones from the soil while preparing the ground. And test the soil before adding lime and fertilizer. Some experts say the best fertilizers for beets are low in nitrogen. Beets need the acidity level in the soil to be six to seven and a half.

Beet seeds can be planted as soon as the soil is able to be worked at the start of the growing season. Planting them every two or three weeks will provide a continuous harvest into the fall.

Professor Cindy Haynes at Iowa State University suggests planting the seeds one and one-quarter centimeters deep. They should be planted in rows that are spaced thirty to forty-six centimeters apart.

Overcrowding the plants will mean that the roots cannot spread out and grow. Thin the beets by removing the smaller ones. These can be used as greens.

Cindy Haynes says little or no fertilizer is needed in fertile soils. But once the seeds are planted, she does suggest covering the soil with a little mulch to protect it during rains and dry periods. She also suggests putting a fence around the plants to keep away rabbits and deer.

She says the only work needed once beets have been thinned is weeding and, when the weather is dry, a weekly watering.

Some people like beets prepared simply in butter. Others like to cook them with cinnamon and ginger.

However you like them, for best results, beets should be picked when the roots are two and one-half centimeters around. Beets much larger than that can be tough and have to be cooked for a long time.

And that’s the VOA Special English Agriculture Report, written by Jerilyn Watson. For transcripts, MP3s, podcasts and captioned videos of our reports, go to You can also share comments and questions. I'm Jim Tedder.


Correction: Beets should be picked when they are four to five centimeters across, not two and a half as this story said.