Beets

Health Power

A great vegetable for defending against cell damage in digestive tract. Color comes from betacyanin, which prevents pre-cancerous cell damage. Fiber induces liver production of antioxidants (glutathione peroxidase and glutathione S-transferase) for detoxifying body from damaging, potentially carcinogenic chemicals. Stimulate production of immune cells in animal colon and protect from damage by nitrosamines (created from nitrates) in stomach. Phytonutrients choline and its metabolite betaine correlate with lower levels of C-reactive protein, tumor necrosis factor alpha and homocysteine. All help reduce inflammation and blood vessel damage, loss of cognitive function and insulin resistance. Folate deters blood vessel damage by lowering concentrations of homocysteine and prevents neural tube defects in fetus. Lowers total cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which is great for the cardiovascular system. Magnesium assures calcium absorption in gastrointestinal tract. Calcium helps make healthy bones. Iron essential for hemoglobin to deliver oxygen to all body tissues.

Vitamin and Mineral Content

Vitamins – B9 (Folate) and C
Minerals – Manganese, Potassium, Magnesium, Iron, Copper and Phosphorus

Disease Prevention

Beets lower risk of heart disease, colon cancer, stomach cancer, birth defects, type II diabetes, osteoporosis and anemia.

How to Grow

Beets prefer a deep soil rich in organic matter, microbes and nutrients. Work in some aged compost or planting mix to both fertilize and improve drainage. Like other root vegetables, they benefit from raised beds but not needed if soil is naturally deep and worked well. Grow best at 60-65˚F. If summer is scorching, grow beets in winter/early spring and fall. Prefer full sun, but in hotter areas, part shade prevents scorching. Seeds come in groupings; one “seed” is a group of 7-8 seeds. When soil is workable, create shallow drills at 1 foot apart or more. Rinse seeds vigorously in a filter or soak overnight to promote germination. One month before the last frost, sow each cluster of seeds 1 inch deep and 2.5 inches apart within the drills. Since each seed is a cluster, thin out seedlings by pulling up roots. Once seedlings reach a few inches tall, thin out to about 6 inches between plants. For continual harvest, sow the seeds successively every couple weeks until weather heats up (midsummer). Keep beds weed free, but be careful not to damage roots. Mulch between plants with compost or other organic matter. Last sowings will be the main crop. Keep soil moist by watering roughly one inch a week or more during hot stretches. Harvest early ones when they are smaller (ping pong ball size) and later ones when they reach baseball size. When separating leaves from beet, make sure not to damage skin. Leave about an inch of the stems on so they don’t bleed. Store some undamaged ones for winter in a container surrounded by peat, sand, vermiculite or sawdust.

Insect Control

Grown in healthy conditions, usually develop pest free. You may see flea beetles (small, dark creatures that jump up when approached) and leaf miners (tiny black insects that burrow into the leaf leaving yellow tunnels). To rid crop of flea beetles, cut out a rectangular card (plastic or cardboard) and cover one side with sticky material (thick grease works). Slowly run the sticky side of card about an inch above plants and watch flea beetles jump up and get stuck to the card. Leaf miners are tiny black insects that burrow into the leaf, leaving yellow tunnels. Remove the leaves and destroy them as soon as you notice them.

Tips

Key to tender beets is to grow quickly and harvest when they reach full size. To encourage growth, fertilize every few weeks with compost tea or liquid seaweed extract.

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