nutritiional root vegetable

Beets: Nutritious Root Vegetable

Beets: One of the Most Nutritious Root Vegetables

Beets – love ‘em or hate ‘em – beets are an ideal part of a healthy diet.

Regardless of how you feel about them, they rank high on my list of the most nutritious root vegetables.  We have started adding beets to our juices, and find this is a great way to include them in our diet. Another way to use raw beets is to shred them and add them to salads.nutritious root vegetable

Beets (Beta vulgaris) belong to the same plant family as Swiss chard and spinach. This vegetable is a dual powerhouse: both the leaves and the root are edible and nutritionally rich.

The dark green in tops become slightly bitter in flavor as they mature. However, they are richer in chlorophylls than either chard or spinach, and actually contain more iron than spinach.

Beets have high levels of important vitamins, minerals and micronutrients. They are also a good source of dietary fiber and natural digestible sugars. One small beet (40g) provides around 1.6g of dietary fiber and 75kJ (17 calories) of energy, according to The Oxford Dictionary of Food and Nutrition.

Beet leaves are rich in minerals and vitamins, in particular vitamins A and C, beta-carotene and other carotenes. They are an excellent source of calcium, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, sodium and iron. The beetroot has lesser amounts of these minerals, and also is a great source of choline, iodine, manganese, folate, potassium and sodium.

They have long been recognized as powerful cleansers and builders of healthy blood, yet few people make good use of this nutritious root vegetable.

Both the roots and leaves of beetroot contain iron, potassium and folic acid. Iron is at the centre of the hemoglobin molecule. Hemoglobin is the red pigment in the red blood cells that is responsible for transporting oxygen around the body.

Potassium, along with other minerals and vitamins may help to regulate blood pressure and heartbeat. Folic acid has been shown to have a positive effect on certain types of anemia.

 Growing Beets:

Beets do best as a cool season crop. They grow quickly, and can survive some frosts and low temperatures. They can be grown in most zones, the early crop seeded in March or April, and late season crops sown in July through September.

The best soil for beets is a neutral pH – acidic soil will stunt growth. They require rich soil, so till in aged compost before planting. Plant the seeds about a half-inch deep, and spaced 2 inches apart. If you soak the seeds overnight before planting, they will germinate faster. The seeds are actually capsules with 2 or more seeds inside, so the seedlings will need to be thinned

Thin your new beets when they are about 2 inches high – snipping them off at soil level so you don’t disturb the roots. As they become more established and larger, thin them to 4 inches apart. Beets need plenty of moisture, so mulching is a bonus. It will also prevent weed growth, so you won’t disturb their shallow roots with pulling weeds.

Harvest greens before they get too large – up to 6 inches is optimal for the best flavor. Most varieties mature between 60 to 70 days, although you can certainly harvest the roots at any stage. Leaving them too long before harvesting will give you tougher, and possibly woody, roots.

Fresh beets can be stored in the refrigerator for 5–7 days. Clipping the tops off will keep them fresher for longer. Leave about one inch of stem on each beet, and store the greens separately.

For root cellar type storage, make sure you brush off any soil and store them in a cool, dry place. An unheated closet might do, or put them in a cooler in your basement.

 Different varieties of this nutritious root vegetable:

·      Bulls Blood –This heirloom variety has beautiful sweet deep red leaves, and round red roots.

·      Chioggia – an Italian heritage variety with light red round roots and bright pink and white alternating rings inside. The leaves are a mild green.

·      Cylindra – Another heirloom variety that has a long cylindrical shape, great if you have less space in the garden. The leaves are sweet enough to use in salads.

·      Detroit Supreme – An older heirloom that’s best in cooler zones.

·      Red Ace – a hybrid that germinates well, grows quickly, and has good disease resistance. In mild climates, it can be harvested all winter.

·      Touchstone Gold – a vibrant yellow interior with red or orange skin, these are globe shaped.

Growing beets in your garden, and cooking beets in your kitchen, will open your world to less well known beet varieties, including ‘Chioggia’ and golden beets. Which varieties of this nutritious root vegetable will you plant in your garden?

nutritious root vegetable

 

 

 

 

 

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