I got a little distracted this week while researching beets – the recipe for a beet, arugula & goat cheese grilled sandwich is calling to me to grab the ingredients, and not just inhale, but savor its goodness. How great would it be if you could get them out of your garden? (Extra points if you’ve got a goat and make your own cheese.) It’s rumored that beetroot was offered to Apollo in his temple at Delphi. This is the root vegetable of the gods, people. You better be on the beet bandwagon.
March is a great month for planting your beetroots, which thrive in cooler temperatures. Beets grow best in loamy, acid soils, with the pH ranging between 6.0 and 7.5, according to Organic Gardening. And if you’re city folk without the room in your garden for these space craving plants (they are best planted three to four inches apart, and need to be thinned), a container that is at least one foot deep will work, as well. Be sure to water often, to maintain moisture. The Farmer’s Almanac notes that it can take between 50 and 70 days for most varieties to mature, but to harvest them before the greens grow more than six inches. And don’t throw away the tops, cut and store those greens for salads; they too are packed with nutrients.
Because this is the internet, there is the space, and time, for Love Beetroot, a website dedicated to all things beet, including the history of its evolution. The beet evolved from the sea beet, first domesticated in the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East. At the beginning of its life with humans, it was mostly used medicinally, to treat constipation, and various skin issues. Sexy beet. In the same species as chard, its leaves were more often made into a meal. Texas A&M’s Agrilife Extension has a rather dry page dedicated to the history of the beet, which informs us that what we Americans call chard, applies specifically to the leaf beet (Beta vulgaris variety cicla), or beet that develops no enlarged, fleshy root. (Sidenote: Enlarged Fleshy Root is a GREAT name for a band.)
According to Love Beetroot, “the rounded root shape that we are familiar with today was not developed until the sixteenth century and became widely popular in Central and Eastern Europe 200 years later. Many classic beetroot dishes originated in this region,” including borscht. But beet recipes abound beyond borscht, and if you’re not eating your beets, you should: the veggies are chock-full of fiber, are rich in vitamins A and C, and have more iron than spinach. The View from Great Island site has a Grapefruit and Roasted Beet Salad with Lime Vinaigrette, here. You can even sneak them into your kids’ diets by baking them into cakes.