Beets are round and red or long and cylindrical—and also white and yellow, or zoned with rings. Yellow or golden beets are mild and sweet, without the earthy taste of some reds. Briefly cooked, their pale green tops are delicious, and yummy young leaves are often added to salads.
- Widely available, the cultivars ‘Touchstone Gold’ and ’Burpee’s Golden’ beets may be the beets for people who think they don’t like them. Highly recommended.
- Sugar beets are big and white, and sweet. ‘Albina Vereduna’ and ‘Blankoma’ are both heritage varieties. The Italian heirloom ‘Chioggia Guardsmark’ is light red on the outside, and candy-striped pink and white within.
- Shaped like a long fat cigar, cylindrical beets ‘Carillon’ and ‘Rodina’ grow down rather than out, and can be cooked whole, then sliced into discs for a nice beet salad. These need deeply worked soil.
- For round reds look for the newer ‘Kestrel’ hybrid, along with the older cultivars like ‘Detroit Rubidus’ and ‘Red Ace’.
- Every year we grow a patch of big beets for winter cold storage: ‘Lutz Greenleaf’ and ‘Winterkeeper’ are two names for the same beet that grows softball sized or larger, while keeping a tender texture and sweet taste. Covered in slightly damp sand (or sandy soil), they keep for up to four months any place where the temperature hovers between 0° and 5°C.
Earwigs are interested in tiny garden seedlings—specifically beets, carrots, chard and beans—and can wipe out a promising row in a night or two. The trick may be timing: as a cool-weather crop, beets can be seeded a few weeks before spring’s frost-free date, and may then be big enough to fend for themselves before small hungry earwigs hatch out in great numbers. Otherwise, a delayed sowing—any time from late June to early August—seems to escape the worst of the predation, and brings beets to the table from mid-September to November; the roots do very well in fall.