How to know when to harvest beets

“Sir, it’s always beets.” (Portlandia, Season 4, Episode 3.)

Dwight Schrute devoted his farm to beets. Portlandia’s writers came up with a skit featuring beets. And this year, we decided to grow beets.

This was our first time planting the root vegetable packed with vitamins and minerals. It isn’t just the root that is good for you. The leaves, also known as greens, contain surprising amounts of vitamins A, K and C. According to, a half cup of cooked beet greens provides 30 percent of the daily recommended allowance of vitamin C. A cup of beet greens exceeds the daily recommended intake for vitamin K.

Reader’s Digest notes that there are several health benefits related to beets:

  • Fights cancer
  • Reduces the risk of heart disease
  • Boosts eye health
  • Improves endurance
  • Increases blood flow to the brain
  • Keeps you regular

However, there are a few drawbacks. Some of the most visible were highlighted by Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein in this episode of Portlandia.

Persuaded by the benefits — and curious after all the TV attention — we bought a packet of beet seeds for a quarter from Gateway Greening. Following our Gateway Greening planting calendar, we sowed the seeds in our raised beds in the middle of March.

According to some of the online articles I consulted, the roots would be ready when the root shoulders were visible above the soil. Our calendar indicated harvest season ran from May to June. Last Sunday, we decided to take the plunge and pull some of the beets.

Our results varied. My husband noticed a correlation between the size of the root and the colors of the stem near the root. The redder the stem, the bigger and more deeply colored the beet. You can see the range in the photos that my husband, Enrique Serrano, took.

beets 3

Now, I don’t know if the stem coloration test is scientific, but it seems to have worked so far. We’ll check the remaining crop this weekend. And we’re going to grow them again this fall, planting in August for harvest in October. In the meantime, we roasted the roots then pickled them.

beets 5

beets 6.jpg

What do you think? Are the stems a reliable indicator of the size of the beet, or is it a coincidence?

In other news, I received a new round of promo codes for my audiobook, Erasing the Past. If you’re a U.S. or U.K. resident and you’d like to listen to the book for free, please let me know in the comments below. I’ll supply the codes until I’ve run out of them.

And a very big thank you to those who have taken the time to review Erasing the Past as either an eBook, paperback or audiobook. I appreciate your feedback!

This summer, in addition to gardening and teaching online classes, I’m hard at work revising the latest draft of Crime Beat Girl, a mystery/thriller featuring a St. Louis journalist.

1 thought on “How to know when to harvest beets”

  1. Let’s say that, if the stem isn’t red, your beet root won’t be ripe. So the stem color can be an indicator of ripeness, moving up to the very leaves from the base.

    Some red stems still have small roots attached to them, but they won’t be growing much more anyway. And if it’s all green, it’s still worth waiting.

    Liked by 2 people

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