When To Harvest Beets? How to Tell Your Beet Crop is Ready.

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I never liked beets. There, I said it. I once had a beetroot juice that made me so sick that I was put off beets for two decades! But then someone offered me some pickled beets at a dinner I was invited to, and never wanting to be a bad guest, I ate them – and WOW. I -could- not -get -enough. Now, I grow beets for the solitary reason of pickling, and I pickle a LOT of jars of beets every year. I have lots of experience knowing if a beet will be tasty. And I want to share with you my tips to tell when to harvest beets so they are the freshest and best tasting you ever have.

Determining when your beets are ready for harvesting can be tricky, but this article will provide helpful tips on how to do it based on their size, color, and foliage. However, once you’ve harvested your beets, you must know how to properly store them and preserve them to make them last throughout the winter season. In addition to storage tips, you’ll also find some ideas on using your beets so they don’t go to waste.

Fresh harvest beets from the garden resting on a table.
Table of Contents

    Signs of Ready-to-Harvest Beets

    Visual Cues: Size and Color

    Visual cues play a crucial role. Keep an eye on the size and color of the beets as they mature. Once the beetroots reach a diameter of about 1-3 inches, they are usually ready for harvesting. Vibrant colors on growing beets, like deep red, yellow, or purple, indicate that the beets have reached their peak ripeness.

    A man farmer holds beets in his hands.

    Firm and Smooth Skin

    Inspecting the beet’s skin is another way to determine its readiness for harvest. Mature when beets are ready and will have firm and smooth skin. Gently press your finger against the skin; if it feels firm without any give, it indicates that the beet is ready to be pulled from the ground.

    Beautiful shiny clean berry-red beets freshly harvested from the garden laying on a pile on a table surrounded by beet greens.

    Foliage Growth and Root Development

    Observing foliage growth and root development can also provide valuable insights into when to harvest your beets. The foliage should appear healthy with lush green leaves. As for beetroot development, if you notice that the beet plants have well-developed roots extending deep into the soil, it’s a sign that they have reached maturity.

    Remember that beets are a cool-weather crop, so consider harvesting them during fall or early spring when temperatures are cooler.

    You can also harvest beet greens throughout the growing season – only take the outer leaves, but you can keep harvesting until the beets are ready for harvest.

    Bunch of fresh organic beets with tops on a rustic table top.

    Step-by-Step Guide: Picking and Harvesting Beets

    To ensure a successful beet harvest, follow this simple step-by-step process:

    Loosen the Soil around the Roots

    Gently loosen any soil around the beet plant using a garden fork or trowel. This will help make it easier to pull out the beets without damaging them.

    Beets being harvested with two hands to not damage the root.

    Pull Out the Beets

    With a firm grip on the foliage near the base of the plant, gently pull out each beet. Avoid yanking or twisting too forcefully, as this may cause damage to both the roots and leaves.

    Beet roots recently harvested still with dirt and debris from the garden clinging to the roots and skins.  A gardener holds the beet bunch toward the camera.

    Remove Foliage without Damaging Beet Roots

    Once you’ve harvested all your beets, it’s time to remove the foliage. Hold onto each beet by its leaves and use a sharp, clean knife or scissors to trim any excess foliage. Leave about an inch of stem attached to each beet to prevent bleeding during storage.

    Fresh young beets on tray with a napkin.  Beet greens have been removed and the beets have been cleaned.

    Rinse and Store

    To harvest beets, remove excess foliage, rinse them under cold water, pat them dry, and store them properly. Harvest beetroots between 1.5 and 3 inches in diameter for optimal taste. Check their size by gently brushing away the soil around their tops.

    Tips for Perfectly Harvested and Delicious Beets

    A few common mistakes can impact the taste of these delicious root vegetables.

    One mistake to avoid is leaving the beets in the ground too long. If you wait too long to harvest your beets, the beets can become tough and woody, resulting in a less enjoyable eating experience.

    Another mistake is harvesting the beets when they are too small. Be sure to give them enough time to grow to their full potential before picking them.

    Harvest at the Ideal Time of Day

    Timing is everything. The best time of day to harvest beets is in the morning or late afternoon when temperatures are cooler. Harvesting in the morning helps to preserve beets and their sweetness and crispness. Avoid harvesting during the hottest part of the day, as this can cause the beets to become limp and lose some of their flavor.

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    Handle Freshly Harvested Beets with Care

    Once you’ve harvested your beets, handling them properly is essential to preserve their quality. Start by gently removing any excess dirt or debris from the beet root without scrubbing too harshly, as this can damage their skin. Next, remove any edible greens attached to the beet tops, which can drain moisture from the roots if left intact.

    Place your freshly harvested beets in a cool and dark location, such as a root cellar or refrigerator crisper drawer, to store them. This will help maintain their freshness and flavor for an extended period.

    Remember that beet greens are also edible and make a great addition to salads or sautés! Don’t let them go to waste; use them in your favorite recipes for an added burst of nutrition.

    Preserving Techniques: Pickling and More for Beets

    Preserving beets is an excellent way to enjoy their delicious flavors throughout the year. We’ll explore other creative ways to preserve these root vegetables beyond traditional pickling methods.

    Pickling Beets: Tangy Flavors Year-Round

    Pickled beets are a tangy delight that can elevate any meal or snack. Here are some techniques to help you pickle fresh beets:

    1. Classic Pickled Beets: Start cooking the beetroots until they’re tender. Then, peel and slice them before packing them into sterilized jars with brine made from your choice of vinegar, sugar, and spices.
    2. Fermented Beet Pickles: Fermenting beets not only preserves them but also adds probiotics and enhances their flavor profile. Slice the beetroots and submerge them in a saltwater brine for several days until they develop that delightful tanginess.
    3. Spicy Pickled Beets: For those who enjoy the heat, add chili peppers or red pepper flakes to your pickling brine. A pinch of spice will give your pickled beets an extra kick!

    As with any canning recipe, use a trusted recipe from a reputable source to ensure your beets are shelf stable and safe.

    Bright red PIckled ridged beets in a small glass gar with a sprig of parsley against a bright white background.

    Beyond Traditional Pickling Methods

    While pickling is a popular preservation method for beets, there are other creative ways to make beets grow and extend their shelf life:

    • Canning: Canning allows storing whole or sliced beets in jars with vinegar or water-based solutions.
    • Freezing: Blanching and freezing beet slices or cubes can help retain their color and texture for future use.
    • Roasting: Roasted beets can be pureed into a smooth paste or diced in salads, soups, or side dishes.
    • Dehydrating: Dehydrated beets can be ground into powder or used as crunchy beet chips.

    Preserving beets ensures their availability year-round and allows you to experiment with different flavors and textures. Whether you choose pickling, canning, freezing, roasting, or dehydrating, these preservation techniques will help you enjoy the earthy sweetness of beets long after the harvest season ends.

    Proper Storage Methods for Freshly Harvested Beets

    To ensure the longevity and freshness of your freshly harvested beets, it’s essential to understand the importance of proper storage conditions. Here are some tips for storing your beets:

    To store your beets for an extended period, refrigerate them or use a root cellar.

    For refrigeration, remove any greens, clean, trim, and store beets in a plastic bag with holes punched into it. Keep it in the crisper drawer of your fridge at 32°F (0°C) with high humidity.

    For a root cellar, store your beets in wooden crates or boxes lined with straw or sand to prevent rotting. Keep the temperature stable between 32°F (0°C) and 40°F (4°C), with humidity levels ranging from 85% to 95%.

    Close up on basket of many whole red and golden beets ready for storage.

    Cleaning, Trimming, and Storing Beet Greens Separately

    Beet greens are not only edible but also highly nutritious. To make the most of your fall harvest here, consider cleaning, trimming, and storing the greens separately from the roots.

    • Cleaning: Wash beet greens thoroughly under cold water to remove dirt or debris. Pat them dry gently using a kitchen towel or paper towel.
    • Trimming: Remove any damaged or discolored leaves from the bunch. Trim the stems to your desired length, leaving about an inch attached to the leaves.
    • Storing: Place the cleaned and trimmed beet greens in a plastic bag or container lined with a damp paper towel. Seal the bag tightly and store it in the refrigerator. Beet greens are best consumed within a few days to retain freshness and flavor.

    By following these storage methods, you can ensure that your freshly harvested beets stay fresh and delicious for an extended period, allowing you to enjoy their vibrant flavors whenever you desire.

    Mastering Beet Harvest Timing for Best Results

    You’re now ready to become a beet-harvesting pro! Identify mature beets, follow our guide and tips for a perfect harvest, and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

    Visit your garden or local market and pick perfect beets at their peak of flavor. Savor the satisfaction of reaching beet greatness!

    Want to Learn More?

    Learn More About Beets:

    Learn More About Harvesting Vegetables:

    We also have some wonderful guides for peek harvest tips for some popular vegetables:

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