MASTER GARDENER: Beets are a resilient, adaptable vegetable to grow in northern Minnesota
Beets are this year’s vegetable for the program “One Vegetable, One Community,” so I am also declaring it the 2023 vegetable of the year to get your attention.
Have you heard the news? The 2023 Vegetable of the Year is the delicious, nutritious BEET! Beets are this year’s vegetable for the program “One Vegetable, One Community,” a very unifying title though lacking in excitement, so I am also declaring it the 2023 vegetable of the year to get your attention.
Question: Why do beets always win?
Answer: Because they are un-beet-able!
Beets provoke strong opinions. I haven’t met very many people who are neutral about beets. Do you love them or hate them? I absolutely love them. Pickled, roasted, shredded into a salad, even out of a can.
Tutto Bene makes an amazing beet salad in the summer that you absolutely must try. But beets also have their detractors. I know a number of people, who have no other obvious character defect besides the fact that they can’t stand beets.
Having chosen a vegetable that elicits such strong reactions is an opportunity for us to put our differences about eating beets aside and support the beetroot vegetable for the greater good of our community. Let's grow some beets together.
There are many varieties and colors of beets. A favorite of mine is the Chioggia beet which has red and white stripes. It has a wonderful flavor and doesn’t dye your fingers red as much as the traditional variety.
“One Vegetable, One Community” is about growing local foods and building community and partnerships. It is about starting conversations about vegetables grown in our area, as well as an invitation to eat together, cook together and make connections with neighbors. Fresh, healthy food should be available to everyone.
Beets will definitely start conversations. Even if you don’t like beets, you can grow them for friends and talk about how well they are growing with your neighbors
You can pick up free beet seeds at a variety of locations in Beltrami County:
- Bemidji City Hall
- Bemidji Community Food Shelf
- Wild Hare Bistro
- Blackduck Library
- Harmony Natural Food
- Blackduck Resource Center
- Sanford Clinic Blackduck
- Kelliher City Hall
- Kelliher Resource Center
If you pick up an extra pack of free seeds, you can recruit your neighbors for the project and discuss how your beets are growing all summer long.
To plant beets, you will need to prepare a patch of soil, loosen things up a bit with a rake or garden fork, add some compost or dried manure and then create a smooth surface. Soak beet seeds in warm water for 24 hours before planting to improve and quicken germination.
Plant seeds according to the instructions on your seed packet. Beets can handle a light frost, so in our area, you can usually start planting them in May, and to keep beets growing all summer long, plant a new row every two to three weeks.
It takes 50-70 days for beets to fully mature, but as you thin out the smaller beets, you can use them in salads. Beet greens and baby beets are delicious. At our house, we will saute the beet greens, add cooked beetroot, and then melt some goat or feta cheese on top (credit to my friend Suzy for this inspiration).
Did you hear about the vegetable that lowers your blood pressure and increases your brain function? You can’t "beet" that!
Beets are a resilient, adaptable vegetable to grow in northern Minnesota. According to Healthline, beets are packed with essential nutrients and are a great source of fiber, vitamins and iron.
Beets have been associated with lower blood pressure, slowed dementia and cancer prevention. And if you still can’t bring yourself to eat them, you can use them to make beautiful natural dyes.
So, I hope I have convinced you to plant beets in your garden this year. If you run into any issues with your beets or other plants this summer, remember you can contact the Beltrami County Master Gardeners on the helpline (218) 444-7916 or message us on our Facebook page.
These local garden articles will reach you each week throughout the gardening season, but gardening information can be found year-round by clicking on "Yard and Garden” at the University of Minnesota Extension website, www.extension.umn.edu, or by visiting our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Beltramicountymastergardeners.
Local Master Gardeners will respond to questions via voicemail. Call (218) 444-7916 and leave your name, number and question.