Beta vulgaris ( Red Castelnaudary Beet )

‘Red Castelnaudary’ is an heirloom beet whose root grows like a carrot, up to 12 inches long. The root has a fine, delicate flavor, and can be grown either red or yellow. It cooks and slices easily. This variety thrives best in deeply tilled, loose, sandy soil. Beets, though grown as an annual, are really biennials. Originally, beets had no thick, rounded roots, but just leafy tops. Swiss chard is actually an improved beet. Today’s modern beet has been bred to have a fleshy, swollen root (in white, red or yellow) from which a rosette of leaves appears. Though most folks grow beets for their roots, the tops can be eaten too. Beets are best grown in cooler areas of the country, but will go to seed without making roots if the weather is too cold. In the South, they are grown as a winter crop. Hot weather causes beet roots to become very woody. Beets do well in shade and thrive in loose, well-worked soil, high in organic matter that is not acidic. Plenty of potassium should be woked into the soil. Once soil is prepared and a balanced fertilizer has been worked into the ground at 1 pound/100 square feet, plant seed clusters 1 inch deep and 1 inch apart with rows 1.5 feet apart. Thin seedling to 3 inches apart. Because beets do not transplant well, eat the thinned seedlings as you would spinach. Fertilize beet seedlings again in mid season. Beets really pose no serious disease or pest problems. Beets are easily grown in containers. Water only enough to keep soil from drying out.

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