Grow Heirloom Beets – Plant Sugar Beet Seeds
That’s right, the name does’t lie–sugar beets can give you sugar! A hardy grower, cold tolerant and can thrive in sun or partial shade and, surprisingly for a “sweet” veggie, doesn’t require a lot of water. Beets even have a high tolerance for low fertility soil. The Sugar Beet is the ultimate versatile crop, as it can be enjoyed as a sweet root vegetable, leafy greens can be harvested and consumed as well, and of course it can be processed for sugar!
Sugar Beet roots are not a typical beet, being a very large white and tapered root. Largely regarded as one of the best crops for your “sustainable” farm.
How to Make Sugar from Beets:
Once harvested, separate greens from roots. Beets should be thoroughly cleaned and scrubbed with a stiff brush. Sugar beets should then be cubed or shredded with a food processor, then boiled in a large pot with just enough water to cover the beet material. Boiling the beets for about 1 hour will extract the sugar and beet material should be mushy, boiling times may vary based on the size of your cubes and toughness of the beets. Once boiled down, beet pulp should be strained from the liquid through a cheese cloth. Beet pulp can be wrung in the cheese cloth to get the maximum amount of moisture out of the pulp. Sometimes double straining may be necessary to make sure all beet pulp is removed from the liquid–this is necessary or your finished product will not store well. The remaining liquid now needs to be boiled again and reduced down to your desired viscosity. Liquid can be boiled all the way down until crystals form, but reducing to a kind of syrup can also be effective. This process of reducing can take several hours, depending on how much liquid you started with and the starting sugar content of your crop.
Name:Sugar Beet Seeds
Botanical Name:Beta vulgaris
Light Requirement:Full Sun
Planting Season:Cool Season
Plant Type:Root Vegetable, Taproot, 10-14 Days for Microgreens, 35 Days for Greens
Features:Heirloom, Easy to Grow & Maintain, Container Garden, Good for Microgreens, Fast Growing
Fruit Size:12 Inch Diameter Roots, 3 – 5 Pounds
Days to Maturity:100 Days
Plant Height:24 inches
Plant Spacing:2-4 inches
Planting Depth:1/2 inch
Sowing Method:Direct Sow
Seeds per Packet:4 g
Seeds per Pound:27, 200
Hardiness Zones:2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
How to Grow Sugar Beets
When to Plant Beet Seeds
Beets like to be planted in cooler weather, but when the soil is above 40 degrees F. If you’re in many of the southern states, you can grow beets all winter long. Beets can be planted relatively early in the season, as soon as soil can be worked or approximately 4 weeks after the last hard frost.
Where to Plant Beet Seeds
Beets can be started indoors and then transplanted outdoors. Being related to Swiss Chard and Spinach, beets should not be planted in close proximity or succession with these crops. The plot should be kept well weeded to discourage competition which can result in a less than peak harvest. Beets have a good tolerance for low fertility soil, and too much nitrogen can encourage top growth which will detract from root development.
How to Plant Beet Seeds
If you want a continuous harvest all season long, stagger your plantings about 3 weeks from each other so they will be ready to harvest at different points during the season. Seeds should be planted approximately 3 /4 inches deep and 1 inch apart in rows of approximately 12-18 inch spacing. After germination when seedlings are approximately 4-5 inches tall, seedlings will need to be thinned, depending on your desired harvest. For early harvesting of small, cylindrical roots, thin to 3-4 inches apart. For later harvests of larger roots thin to 6+ inch spacing. Take care when thinning to not disturb the nearby developing roots.
How to Harvest Beets
The best color and flavor for beets develops under cool conditions and bright sun. Beets can be harvested when they have reached the desired size, but approximately 65 days after planting beets will be the familiar 1.5 – 2 inches (depending on variety) that most gardeners want for cooking and preserving. With adequate moisture and space, beets will grow rapidly, but larger roots can be tough and fibrous. When harvesting, beets should be separated from their tops, leaving about 1 inch of stem on the root. Beet greens are also nutritious and delicious, but must be stored separately–greens stored intact with the root will continue to draw moisture from the root, and will result in a shriveled and flavorless root.
You can also eat the greens! You can harvest the greens while the beet’s roots are small and the plant is still young.
Fresh beets can be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks, or preserved by canning, pickling or freezing.