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Chioggia Beet

ABOUT THE PLANT

Description: The Chioggia beet has 1"–3" pinkish/red roots with alternating concentric rings of bright pinkish/red and white. It has an especially sweet and mild earthy flavor. The leaf tops are crisp, green and delicious. 
Origin: Beets are believed to have originated in the Mediterranean area. The Chioggia is an Italian heirloom from the mid-1800s.
Usage: Beets can be boiled, baked, roasted or pickled and eaten as a side dish. They're also delicious grated raw into salads.  Or make borscht, a delicious Ukrainian beet soup.  The nutritious and delicious greens can be steamed, sauteed, braised, added to soups, and eaten raw.   
Interesting facts:  Women were using red beet juice as a cheek and lip stain in the 17th and 18th centuries.

 

HOW TO GROW

General requirements: Beet "seeds" are really a cluster holding up to 8 seeds inside, so after germination, seedlings will need to be thinned eventually to 3”-4” apart. Beets are a cool-weather crop and do especially well in spring and fall. Beets require full sun (minimum of six hours) and soil that is rich in organic matter and drains well. Add in some bone meal, too, as beets like phosphate. It ensures rapid root growth and good uptake of other nutrients. It's important to keep the soil consistently moist, but not soggy. Remove any rocks or obstacles that would interfere with good root development.  A soil pH between 6.0 and 7.0 is best. Ideal temperatures are 50-65ºF, but they will tolerate some hot weather and some freezing as well. Soaking seed overnight aids in germination.
In the garden: Plant in early spring, as soon as soil can be worked, with soil temperatures at least 50ºF. You can plant successive plantings every 2 weeks until midsummer. Sow seeds1/2 inch deep and 1-2 inches apart in rows 12-18 inches apart. Tamp the soil with the palm of your hand to ensure good soil contact. When plants are 2-4” tall, thin to 3-4” apart using clean scissors to cut away the excess. Don’t throw away the thinnings...eat them! When the plants reach 5 inches or so, apply 2 to 3 inches of light, organic mulch to suppress weeds and improve moisture retention. The mulch will also keep the sun off the tops of the beetroots, so they don’t turn green and tough.
In containers: Use a container that is at least 10 “ deep, and has good drainage. Fill it with well-draining, light soil, or potting soil, and amend it with compost or an all-purpose fertilizer such as 10-10-10. Add in some bone meal, too, as beets like phosphate. Set the container in an area getting at least 6 hours of sun daily. Sow the seeds 1/2" deep and tamp down the soil. When plants are 2-4” tall, thin to 3-4” apart.
Transplanting: Start indoors using 4” peat pots filled with seed starting mix. Sow 2 seeds per pot, 1/2" deep.  Keep soil moist, but not soggy. Place in an area that averages 65°F and gets 6 or more hours of light. You may need to use grow lights. After seedlings emerge, thin them to one per container using clean scissors to cut away the excess seedlings. When they have grown 2 or 3 “ tall and when it’s still cool outside but after the danger of any frost has passed you can transplant them. Cut out the bottom of the peat pot. Plant the pot in the garden so that the soil levels remain the same. Space them 4-6" apart.

 

HARVESTING

Beets: Beets are at their tastiest and most tender when they are harvested between 1" and 3" in diameter. Use a garden fork to lift the beets or simply pull them by hand. Brush off excess soil. Do not wash. To store in the refrigerator, cut off the greens 2” above the top of the beet. Place them in a zip-lock bag, remove as much air as possible, then place them in the crisper drawer. They will store in the refrigerator for several weeks.
Leaves: Harvest the beet greens at almost any time.  Up to one-third of the tops can be harvested without damaging the plant.  
Seeds: Beets are biennial, which means that they only flower and produce seeds in the second year after sowing. If you live in a cold climate, it is best to store the beets through the winter and replant them in the spring.  Beets should be able to survive the winter in milder climates.  The following spring, the plants will begin to grow again producing new leaves. Eventually, a flower stalk will form, then flowers, then seeds. This process may take months. When 2/3 of the seeds have turned brown, cut the stalk and move it to a place where the seeds can further dry. To remove the seeds from the stalk, wear gloves and run your hand along it letting the seeds fall into a container. Store the seeds in a dark, dry, cool place.

 

FAST FACTS

Common name: Chioggia, Candystripe Beet or Bull's Eye beet
Latin name: Beta vulgaris
Growth habit:
Life cycle: Biennial, but grown as an annual
USDA Zones: 2-12
Seeds per ounce: ~2000
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