Beets, in the botanical sense, are those long, cylindrical roots that most people think of when they hear the term. They’re not to be confused with beets in the culinary sense.

There are several health benefits and risks associated with beets. Their nutritional value is nearly unparalleled and they have a unique array of beneficial properties for cardiovascular health.

In addition to the benefits of beets, there are some potential risks that need to be looked at.

*Beetroots contain nitrates. These can cause a potentially dangerous condition called methaemoglobinaemia when too much nitrogen is consumed in the diet. Nitrates can react with organic matter in the intestine and release nitrite, which forms nitric oxide (NO) as a byproduct. Because of their chemical similarity to oxygen, NO competes with oxygen in the bloodstream. Effects of methaemoglobinaemia include headaches, shortness of breath and cyanosis (bluing of the skin).

* Beets can cause iron-deficiency anemia in ferreminty-sensitive people.

* A large amount of Oxalic acid is present in some species of beet which is potentially toxic for people with kidney disorders.

* Beet has a low level of antioxidants.

* There are some potential risks that need to be looked at.

A word of caution, though. Beets are high in oxalic acid which can cause problems for people with kidney disorders. Some people can have stomach upset after eating them in large amounts too, so you may want to test this out on your own first before eating any large amounts of beets.

When is the best time to start planting beets?

Beets can be started up to 1 month before your last frost date. In general, you would want to plant your seeds in the late summer or early fall so that they will have enough time to mature and be ready for harvesting by the next summer. Because they are perennials, you do not need to start them from seed every year (although it is very easy and fun!)

Where can I buy beets at a local garden store?

Beets can be found at any local garden center. Because they are perennials, you can also buy them at your local nursery.

What kind of environment do beets need?

Beets are a root crop and should be planted in full sunlight in an area that stays moist, but not too wet. Beets will grow in almost any well drained soil. Beets need a lot of nutrients to help the plant get nutrients from the earth and these nutrients should be added during planting as well as when the beet is mature (when harvesting). Beets plant themselves pretty close to dirt, so as the root grows, it will bind itself to the dirt at the base of its stem. In general, beets can be grown in a wide variety of soil conditions and seasons.

How do I harvest my beet?

Harvesting beets is quite easy and doesn’t require much effort. Wait until the beet looks mature and has developed a nice red color. You and pull it from the ground easily by grabbing the top and pulling it. The beet should come out of the ground with a bit of dirt still attached to it. For storage, beets should be harvested when they are full size but younger ones can be left in the ground for storage for extended periods of time. There is no exact formula for this, so you will need to check your beets every couple days. Beets can also be harvested when the leaves are wilted or brown. This is an indication that they are dead and past their prime.

What seed treatment do I need for my beet seeds?

There are a variety of seed treatments available on the main market. However, beet seeds should only be treated with one of three following: untreated, low-dose seed dips or hot water treatment.

* Untreated – Untreated seed can be planted as-is.

* Low-dose seed dips – A low-dose dip is when you soak the seeds in a mild fungicide solution with a concentration of about 300 ppm (parts per million) for 5 minutes. For example, a dip of 1 part Folicur® to 10 parts water would be considered a low-dose dip.

* Hot water treatment – A hot-water treatment is when you soak the seed in a water bath with a temperature of about 70 °C to 100 °C (158 °F to 212 °F) for 10 minutes. For example, a hot water bath created by dissolving 1 part Folicur® in 50 parts boiling water. You can also use a pressure cooker for this.

All three treatments will kill the same amount of fungus on your seeds. The difference is that the low-dose dip is a milder solution that has a lower concentration of Folicur®, which means your seeds may not get as hot as when you soak them in a hot-water bath. When using either of these treatments, make sure you use enough solution to completely cover the seeds and they get good contact with it. The seeds will never come into direct contact with any chemical, so there is no need to worry about the seed being treated with anything.

Do beet roots lose all their good nutrition when cooked?

Beets should be cooked before they are eaten so that the damaging enzymes are broken down and the vitamins and minerals get released. The beet greens are also eaten in a dish called “bouquet garni” that is made up of beets, carrots, celery, garlic and thyme. They all have the same amount of nutrients as the root but you can see from the picture below that they have a different color.

What happens when you eat beet roots daily?

If you eat a small beet root once a day, you will get the full amount of vitamins and minerals within that day. The problem with eating only one bite of beetroot is that it will worsen your chances of getting eye diseases such as cataract. It’s very easy to accidentally ingest too much dangerous toxins when eating beets but if you get an eye disease, it can be difficult to find treatment.

I get the feeling that beets have gotten a bad rap over the years. The negative stigma surrounding beets may have come from people who were simply afraid of getting pesticides on them when they ate them. I believe that is not the case anymore with our advanced gardening technology today, and even if there are small traces of pesticides on our foods, I don’t think it’s going to cause major health problems for us.