Beets (Beta vulgaris) may be grown for fodder, sugar, leafy greens, or as a root vegetable. When grown as a vegetable, the leafy greens atop the root can be cooked like spinach, and the roots can be boiled as a cooked vegetable or used cold as a side dish. The stem of the beet root can reach 1 foot or more with leaves that are 3 to 10 inches long. Most beet roots are best when harvested at 3 inches in diameter.
Beets have a wide variety of nutritional values. They are low in calories, have no cholesterol, contain beneficial anti-oxidants, and are a source of vitamins. The leaves contain an abundance of vitamin C, carotenoids, flavonoid, and vitamin A. The root is a source of B-complex vitamins, potassium, and minerals such as iron, manganese, copper and magnesium. Beets come in a variety of colors from deep-red or deep-reddish purple to white, red-and-white striped or golden yellow.
The 2 primary groups of beets grown as vegetables in home gardens are:
1. Leaf Beets have especially leafy tops that are tasty when prepared as a type of “greens” for meals. Their roots can also be eaten.
2. Tuberous Beets are grown especially for the root because they are typically larger than the roots of the Leaf beets. However, the leaves of Tuberous beets are also edible.