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Harvesting, storing & preserving beet

09.03.2021  /  Reading time: 8 minutes

If stored and preserved correctly, beet can be kept all winter long and can enrich your diet. But when is the best time to harvest beet and what should you bear in mind when storing it? You can also find tips on how to preserve beet here.

This article contains:

  1. Harvesting beet: how to do it
  2. When to harvest beet?
  3. Storing beet
  4. Processing beet
  5. Preserving beet
  6. Harvesting your own beet seeds: here's how

Quick Overview

When to harvest beet?

  • Beet is ready to harvest after 3-4 months in the bed, when they are about the size of a tennis ball
  • Harvesting beet - here's how: Bundle the leaves and pull the beetroot out of the soil; loosen the soil with a digging fork if necessary
  • Harvest time is from July until the first frosts, depending on the variety

Storing beet - what you need to bear in mind

  • Remove leaves with a twisting motion before storage
  • Only store undamaged beets
  • Only roughly remove soil residues, do not wash!
  • Store in wooden crates with damp sand or earth mounds

Preserving beet

  • There are many ways to preserve beet, such as preserving beet
  • Are beet leaves edible? - Yes, they are edible and even very healthy. You can process the leaves like young spinach.

Harvesting beet: how to do it

Rote Be[e]te is ripe when the beets have reached about the size of a tennis ball and the leaves are blotchy. However, if the plants are left to grow for longer, the beetroots can become much larger. The small turnips taste particularly fine and aromatic. To harvest, simply bundle all the leaves and pull the beetroot out of the ground by it. For particularly deep varieties, you can carefully help from below with a digging fork. When harvesting, be careful not to damage the main root. If it is damaged, the red juice will leak out and the beet will "bleed to death". The damaged beets should be used as quickly as possible as they cannot be stored.

When to harvest beet?

Beet is harvested from July until shortly before the first frosts in October/November. The first beetroots are ready to harvest after 3-4 months, but they can also remain in the ground for longer. The harvest time depends on when the beet is sown. Early sowings from mid-April can be harvested and eaten fresh as early as July. For storage over the winter, it is best to sow beet in June and let the plants grow until shortly before the first frost. As the small beetroots are particularly tasty, it is a good idea to harvest individual plants over the course of the summer and leave a few to grow until the first frosts. Choose a storable variety for late cultivation, e.g. the "Rote Kugel". The seed-resistant variety "Jannis", for example, is very suitable for eating raw.

Harvested beet
Beet is ready to harvest after about three to four months. Picture by Alexey Hulsov on Pixabay

Storing beet

Before storing, the leaves are removed with a twisting motion or cut off two centimeters above the beet. They are easy to remove and the heart of the beet remains undamaged. If, on the other hand, the beet is damaged, the deep red juice leaks out and it "bleeds to death". Make sure you only store undamaged beet, otherwise pathogens can penetrate the beetroot through open areas and cause it to rot. Do not wash the beetroot before storing, but only roughly remove the soil residues.

To store your supplies over the winter, layer the beets in wooden crates with damp sand so that they do not touch each other. Then place the crate in a cool, dark place with high humidity. An unheated cellar with temperatures of around 3-4 °C is ideal. Under these conditions, the beet will not dry out so easily and will keep until spring. Individual beetroots can then be taken out of the box and used as required.

Processing beet

Beet can be used in a variety of ways. As a raw vegetable salad, it is often combined with apples. But beet also makes a great addition to tomato soup! The earthy taste complements the fresh sweetness of the tomato perfectly. Dark red varieties also give the soup an incomparably strong color. With horseradish, beet makes a deliciously spicy spread. You can experiment with different flavors when processing beet. This always results in unexpected combinations that are always delicious and healthy!

Are beet leaves edible?

What many people don't know: The leaves are also edible. You can cook them in a similar way to spinach or use the young leaves as a baby leaf salad. They taste mildly nutty and are nice and crunchy. If you have large quantities, you can also turn them into pesto. Simply mix the chopped leaves with roasted pine nuts, parmesan, garlic, olive oil and a little lemon juice. Puree, season with salt and pepper and you're done!

Young beet leaves
Young beet leaves taste particularly delicious and can be used to make pesto. Image by Alicja on Pixabay.

Preserving beet

You can preserve the compact beetroot using fermentation or other methods, for example. Beet, for example, can be preserved very well in vinegar. You can also freeze them in portions, cut into small pieces and cooked.

Boil the beet

You can also easily boil down beet to preserve it. To do this, first boil the whole beetroots for around 45 minutes until they are cooked. Then peel them and cut them into slices. A little tip on the side: if you rinse the turnips with cold water after cooking, they are easier to peel. Now make a stock of vinegar, salt and sugar and leave the beet slices in it overnight. For two kilograms of beet (cooked and peeled), you will need around 300 milliliters of vinegar, as well as a tablespoon of salt and two tablespoons of sugar. Once everything is well infused, pour the beet and the stock into boiled jars and seal well. If you like, you can add a quarter of an onion, a bay leaf and cloves to each jar. Then boil the jars in a preserving pot at 80 °C for 30 minutes. If you don't have a preserving pot, you can use a normal large pot and bring the water to a gentle simmer. Make sure that the jars in the pot are completely covered with water.

Harvesting your own beet seeds: here's how

Beet cannot pollinate itself, it is mainly pollinated by the wind. When flowering at the same time, different members of the Chenopodiaceae can therefore cross-pollinate with each other. If you want to obtain seed from a particular variety, you should only allow this variety to flower. You can then either cut off the other inflorescences or prevent wind pollination by growing them under fleece.

Beet plant with large tuber
Choose particularly vigorous plants with large tubers to produce your own seeds. Image by Ville Mononen on Pixabay

Instructions for obtaining seeds

Bring in after the first year for overwintering

In the fall before the first frosts, select the strongest and healthiest plants. Remove the leaves 2-3 cm above the beet. Plant the seed carriers in wooden boxes with a mixture of soil and wood shavings. Keep the boxes moist but not too wet over the winter and store them in a frost-free cellar. At temperatures below -5 °C, the beets would otherwise develop fine cracks, making them susceptible to rot.

Plant out again in the second year

From mid-March, you can then plant out the overwintered beets at a distance of 50x50 cm. Cover the beet completely with soil and water well. It can be useful to support the inflorescences with a bamboo stick or similar, as they can grow up to 1.5 m high. The flowers exude a wonderfully sweet fragrance.

Seed harvest

You can usually start harvesting the seeds at the end of August, as soon as about 2/3 of the seeds have turned brown. Simply strip the seeds carefully with your fingers and collect them in a bowl. You can repeat this process over the next four weeks until all the seeds are ripe. After harvesting, dry the seeds again, put them in a paper bag and label them with the variety and year. If stored in a cool, dry place, the seeds will keep for at least four years.

If you have any questions or comments, please write to us at [email protected].

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Marie studied agricultural science at the University of Hohenheim. Her main focus is on ecological agriculture and permaculture. She writes articles for Fryd to educate people about ecological interrelationships and alternatives to current land use. Our current economic systems, especially in agriculture, have numerous negative effects on nature and destabilize our ecosystems. We need a great diversity in our gardens and beds again to counteract the extinction of species. Every gardener can contribute to creating and maintaining habitats and food for a wide variety of creatures. With her articles, she would like to pass on her experience in dealing with natural systems and give people the opportunity to contribute to a stable ecosystem and thus also to securing our livelihood.

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