Among the variety of root vegetables out there, beets are one of the most popular.
You will see it incorporated in numerous dishes from different cuisines across many countries.
Beets not only add a touch of earthy flavor to a dish but are also incredibly nutritious.
If you’ve decided to grow them in your garden, you might be wondering when is the perfect time to harvest beets.
When to harvest beets? Given the right growing conditions, beets are ready to harvest around seven to eight weeks after planting. As a root crop, one clear sign is when the root is about the size of a golf ball.
How Do You Know When Your Beets Are Ready to Harvest?
As mentioned, you can find signs that beets are ready for harvest in about two months after planting them.
By this time, you will notice that the shoulders are starting to penetrate the topmost layer of the soil.
Still, it is also important to note that when you harvest depends on what you wish to do with them.
For larger beets, you can keep them in the ground for an extended period.
In turn, you will get soft and fibrous beets, which help improve heart health and lower blood pressure.
On the other hand, harvesting younger beets will get you more flavor.
If you don’t care too much about flavor or size, you only need to make sure that they have a dark color and smooth surface.
How to Harvest Beets?
So, you are more than sure your beets are ready to harvest. The question now is, how should you do it?
Generally, you have two options when harvesting beets.
What’s great about them is that you don’t need any special tools to do either one.
The Pull-and-Tug Method
The first method is the easier one. As the name suggests, you only need to pull the beet out of the ground.
To do this, hold on to the greens near the base or where it meets the roots.
This will prevent the greens from detaching from the beets.
If the shoulders of the beets are noticeable above the ground, use these as leverage to pull the roots free from the soil.
If the greens get detached from the beetroots during this process, try the second method of harvesting beets instead.
Additionally, the pull-and-tug method may strain your back, so you must know other ways to harvest your beets.
The Lift-and-Shovel Method
As mentioned, this next method is not as commonly used as the pull-and-tug, probably because it requires tools—a shovel or spade.
To do this, push the shovel or spade onto the ground gently.
As you do, make sure not to dig too deep, as it may damage the beet. In contrast, keeping it too shallow may be ineffective.
After using the spade to loosen the soil around the beet, use your hand to dig into the ground near the bottom part of the beet.
You should be able to feel the base of the root.
If you do, the next thing to do is lift it up from the loosened soil and free it from the taproot.
What Happens if You Don’t Harvest Beets?
Again, you can choose the size of your beets by deciding to keep them in the ground longer.
Harvest them earlier if you want smaller ones, or harvest them later when they’ve grown above the ground to get larger beets.
How long can you delay the harvesting, though? What would happen if you leave them in the ground for too long?
The good thing about beets is that they can stay in the ground longer than other root vegetables without going bad.
Nonetheless, doing so will make your beets quite large and hard, so much so that you might find yourself having a tough time cutting into them.
On the other hand, leaving them in the ground during the winter season will help them stay sweeter despite being larger.
Keep in mind that the greens grow a little too early in colder environments, so you may want to trim them regularly.
Otherwise, your beets would taste woody instead of sweet.
If you wish to keep your beets growing, but you also want to harvest the greens alone, you can also do that.
Just make sure you leave more than enough greens and not cut too much so that the rest can still provide nutrients and energy to the roots.
Should You Wash Beets After Harvesting?
While beets will thrive in damp and cold environments, it’s important that you wash them after harvesting.
Beets stay in the ground for quite some time when they are growing.
Even if you only used organic products on them, there’s no telling what other things are in the soil.
Essentially, this means that despite being sure the flesh and insides are safe and healthy, the outer layer may not.
Bugs, worms, insects, or all sorts of bacteria may have been close to the beet while it’s growing.
Visible signs of worms and insects or not, wash the beets thoroughly after plucking them from the ground.
Then, let them dry before storing them.
Can You Eat Beets Immediately After Harvesting?
Are beets safe to eat right after pulling them out of the ground?
Or, do they require a period of curing afterward before you can consume them?
As discussed earlier, it is not advisable to eat beets immediately after harvesting, as you’ll need to wash them first.
If there’s clean running water nearby, then you can rinse them off and consume them right then and there.
As long as you wash them thoroughly, you will have nothing to worry about.
How to Store Beets
Beets are not only nutritious and effortless to maintain; you can also preserve them in many ways.
After harvesting, you will probably end up with heaps more beetroots you and your family can eat before they go bad.
Fortunately, there are many storage options that will let you preserve and enjoy them for longer.
Here are different methods of storing beetroots you can easily do:
One of the easiest methods of storing beets requires using Ziploc plastic bag.
Air and moisture are usually the biggest enemies you have in keeping your beets fresh.
So, how do you store beetroots in Ziploc bags?
After washing the beets thoroughly, let them air dry before separating the greens from the root.
Then, leave at least two inches of green stem on the root to prevent the beets from bleeding.
Place them in separate Ziploc bags and ensure that you drain out the air before putting them in the refrigerator.
In doing so, your beet greens should last anywhere between two to five days.
Using this simple method, you can expect the beetroots to last for up to three weeks.
Got a room in your house that is below ground level? You can also use that space to store your beets and other root crops.
The most important thing is to make sure the room temperature in that room stays anywhere between 30 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Beets thrive in damp and cold environments, so your cellar should ideally have a humidity level of around 95 percent.
If you are certain your cellar meets those numbers, then you’re good to go.
To store beets in a cellar, you will need to use a covered container with a good amount of sand in it.
Then, simply place the beets in and keep the lid tightly closed.
The goal is to prevent the moisture from escaping so as not to dry the beetroots out.
For the best results, you would also want to check on the beets regularly and maintain the dampness of the sand.
Through this method of preserving beets, your beets should last up to three long months.
If the first two methods did not sit right with you, you probably need a longer-term storage method for your beets.
Fortunately, there’s a storage technique that can keep your beets delicious and nutritious for up to a year.
To have pickled beets, the first step is to boil them.
In a pot, allow the beets to boil in water for 15 minutes. If you harvested larger ones, extend that time to 25 minutes.
Once they are cool enough to handle, peel the skin off and cut them into half-inch cubes.
Then, immediately place them in a jar while they are still warm.
Fill the jar with the boiling water, but leave an inch of headspace between the water and the lid.
For this, make sure you use fresh boiling water, not the one you used to boil your beets.
Beets are arguably one of the best root vegetables you could have in your home garden.
Not only are they extremely beneficial to our health, but they also don’t require too much maintenance.
Furthermore, storing them is rather easy, and you can keep them anywhere between three weeks and a full year.
Just make sure that you know when to harvest them to maximize their taste and potential.
All things considered, nothing can beat a beet in any list of the most useful and beginner-friendly root crops.