LEARNING WHEN AND HOW TO HARVEST BEETS
Beet (Beta vulgaris) is a simple to manage cool-season plant. They grow well in temperate to cold regions. They are easy to harvest and can store for longer durations. They are biennial plants grown as annuals.
Beet is rightly called a superfood. Apart from being low on calories, it is rich in vitamins and minerals like folate, manganese, potassium, iron, antioxidant betaine, vitamin C, vitamin K, and vitamin A.
Also, Read- When to Harvest Sweet Potatoes
Many people believe that beets are only purplish-red in color. However, a variety of yellow, white, or candy-striped beets are available.
People grow Beet Plant for its edible leaves and roots. It is mainly of four types.
1) Common Garden Beet (Beetroot or Table Beet): Grown as a garden vegetable commonly grown for both the roots and leaves.
2) Swiss Chard (Leaf Beet or Silver Beet): Planters grow it for the highly nutritious leaves.
3) Sugar Beet: It is a major source of sugar. It gives one-third of the sugar production in the world.
4) Mangel-Wurzel (Mangold): Its root and leaves are edible. It serves as a fleshy feed for livestock.
Different varieties have varying growing seasons ranging from 8 to 10 weeks for garden beets in favourable climates to 30 weeks for some mangel-wurzels. Harvesting beets is quite simple. The growers need to know two basic things before beginning the harvest process:
- When to Harvest Beets
- How to Harvest Beets
So, let us dive deeper into harvesting Beets!
WHEN TO HARVEST BEETS
When it comes to harvesting, growers get two main products from mother nature in the case of beets – The Root and The Beet Greens. So, we shall talk about the harvesting process concerning these two parts of the plant.
WHEN TO HARVEST ROOTS
Depending on the type, planters can harvest the roots at different stages- Early, medium, or fully mature.
There are various signs that show that the crop is ready to harvest. Let us look at various factors that indicate the maturity of the crop.
– Primary Indicators
Knowing when to harvest the roots is an easy task if you know the signs. The roots themselves show that they are mature. Let us see how.
1)Size of the Roots
Once the roots attain the size of a golf ball (roughly 1 inch or 2.54 cm) wide), we can harvest them. People call them baby beets at this stage. They are tender and have a sweet taste.
The planters can let them grow to the size of a tennis ball if they desire larger beets. Remember not to allow the roots to grow more than 3 inches (7 cm) in diameter. Usually, the plants which expand more than this become tough and fibrous.
Many people prefer to grow small-sized beets for sweeter flavors, while others go for a bigger size.
One of the easiest ways to figure out when to harvest Beets for roots is when they pop out of the ground by an inch or two. Scrap away some soil gently using your hands, in case you are not able to make out whether the shoulders of the beetroot are out of the soil. Once one-third of the root is out of the ground, you should start harvesting as soon as possible.
Apart from the earlier mentioned signs, there are a few additional ways to know more about the right time to harvest the roots of the beet plant. Let us know more about them.
1)Date on the Packet of Seeds
Planters grow the beets by sowing seeds. Check the seeds’ packet to get an idea about the estimated harvest time for the variety you are growing to be ready to check the maturity signs at that time.
2)Colour of the Roots
The roots will be deep in colour once they are ready to harvest. So, you can also check them for the color as well before harvesting.
3) Leaves of the Top
One another way to know that the crop has matured is to see the greens. The tops of the plant start dying and bend over. It shows that now the plants do not have enough energy to keep the roots growing, so harvest the crops. Also, do not confuse leaves wilting due to frost damage or lack of water.
Also, Read- When to Harvest Cannabis
WHEN TO HARVEST THE BEET GREENS
We can harvest the tops at any stage of development. Many People consume it in raw form apart from the cooked one. They are tender till they are 6 inches long. The young tops have a mild quality. We can harvest greens when they are large. The grown tops have a strong flavour at this stage.
PROCEDURE TO CHECK THE MATURITY OF THE ROOT
To know well whether the roots have matured or not, it is advisable to check the samples first. Let us see the steps to check the samples.
- Clear the soil around a sample root.
- Do not pull up the plant wholly. Make a hole using two fingers around the base of the beet plant.
- Try to feel the shoulders of the root. Take out at least one-third of the root if possible.
- Check more samples in the ground if the root does not have the desired size.
- Still, if the roots are not large enough, Leave the rest of the crop in the ground to ripen.
- Do not forget to gently push the soil back on the shoulders of the plant. Do some light watering too.
- After a few weeks, test again if none of the roots matches the expectations.
- On the other hand, if the samples meet the required size, go for harvest.
BEST WEATHER TO HARVEST BEET
The Harvest time depends on the time of sowing the seeds. Apart from this, the conditions at the place where the crop is growing also matter a lot. Planters grow the Beets usually in spring and autumn at most of places.
Most of the variants take 55-70 days to be ready for harvest. Some may be ready after just 45 days too. Keep checking the crop after a month and a half after sowing.
The flavor may alter if we harvest the beets in the heat of summer. It is better to harvest the roots once the weather becomes cooler.
Leave beets in the ground for as long as possible where winters are mild. This helps to sweeten the flavour of the roots. Remember to save the crop from the first hard frost. Before the first frost, either lift beets or protect them. Put a 12-inch (30 cm) thick layer of mulch–leaves, straw, or hay covering the plant bed. Later we can remove the mulch and pull out the roots.
If the weather forecast is showing rain showers, they are indeed better for the crop. If you add water to the soil, it would be easy for the soil to come off. Plan your harvest after the rain shower for easy cultivation.
ADDITIONAL TIPS TO DECIDE WHEN TO HARVEST
Sometimes the size of the tops can mislead. The greens are quite big. Growers may think that the roots are growing at par. It is not correct. You must check the size using your hands before going for harvest.
HOW TO HARVEST BEETS
Harvesting beets come in handy to those who know the proper procedure. So, let us discuss the two ways of harvesting beets for their roots.
1) Pulling Method
Planters use this way commonly to harvest the roots. This method requires no additional tools. Use your hands to remove the soil around the roots. Then, pull the roots of the plant out. When the shoulders are visible, this method is a lot easier to perform.
If you face issues in removing the soil by using your hands; then you may use a spade to loosen the soil. Then, go for pulling. You can also grab the greens at the base to get a hold of the plant. Remember not to pull the tops too much; If they detach, it would be tougher to get the roots out.
2) Lifting Method
It is a method requiring the use of simple implements such as a garden fork or a spade. Place a spade along the roots to lift the soil around them. This method allows the roots to be free easily. Once the soil is loose, Dig the hand below the roots to get them out. Gently lift the Roots out of the ground.
Remember not to harvest all the leaves from the plant at once. It will not allow the root to grow well. Only pick up a couple of leaves from each plant so that the roots can get enough nutrition to flourish.
HOW TO PRESERVE BEETS
It is quite important to decide what to do with the crop before you go for the harvesting process. The Greens only last for a few days, when put in the refrigerator. If you fail to store the roots well, then they would spoil too after a certain amount of time.
Let us understand more about storing beets to get a staple for a longer time in the year.
Gently rub the soil from the roots. Do not wash them with water, if you do then, dry them well before storing. The moisture would be an invitation for the microorganisms. The beetroot may spoil in the storage. So, remember to wash, only when you intend to use the beetroots soon.
It is better to place the roots in a dry and shady area so that the excess soil may dry and fall off itself. Also, it would be a lot easier to remove the soil now.
It is better to use the damaged and bruised roots before the perfect ones. They may spoil earlier than the latter. They do not store well, so do not waste your storage place just to get disappointed later.
Clip off the tops from the roots leaving an inch or longer to avoid bleeding and losing juice. The beets preserve better once we remove the tops of the crop.
BEST LOCATION FOR STORING BEETS
It is best to store beets at a cool and humid location. The temperature should be near freezing, but it is better not to freeze the beets. The ideal temperature would be 32°-40 °F (0°-4 °C). Relative humidity of 95 percent is desirable.
Many people keep the beets in the refrigerator. You can do the same but remember to keep them in a perforated plastic bag in the vegetable crisper drawer. If you fail to keep them in the plastic bag, then the roots may dry out and become soft. Depending upon the variety, the beets may store for 1 to 3 months in the refrigerator.
If there is any spacing issue in the refrigerator or you wish to store them for a longer time; you may pack the beets in a container too. A plastic storage box, a wooden box, a crate, or a bucket may work for this purpose. Put some sand or sawdust on the bottom of the container, then put the beets on them. Continue to do the same making layers.
Place them in a root cellar, or any other ventilated cool location such as a garage, basement or shed. A cool closet or a cooler may work too.
Remember not to pack the roots too tightly. When the beetroots touch each other in storage, there is more probability of rotting. It is better to keep 2 inches (5 cm) of insulating material around at the top, bottom, and sides of the stored roots. Leave the lid of the container loose to let the air circulate well.
Keep checking the roots for any spoilage. Remove the spoilt ones as they may spoil others too.
- Sprouting is a sign of poor storage. It can further lead to decay.
- For storing for a longer time, the beets can be frozen, canned, and pickled.
- You can put the beets in a compost pile also if no storage place is available.
- The best beets have a smooth surface and have a dark colour.