When the word “beets” pops into your head, do you think of the canned, pickled, diced variety your mother served years ago? Yuck.
Modern preparations of beets are so much better.
You’ll get a healthy serving of B vitamins, iron, manganese, copper, magnesium, and potassium in, for example, a glass of The Fitchen’s Immune System Restoring Juice, or in Hunger Thirst Play’s Beets & Blue Kale Crunch Salad.
But which variety to grow? Most of us probably picture the ruby-red or purple root when we think of beets. But, actually, these veggies come in a number of colors including white, golden, and even pink-and-white candy-stripes!
Let’s look at the wide variety of beet types that are available.
Classic, deep-red beets are the most well-known variety. Their color is the result of a pigment called betalain.
While betalain makes red (along with golden) cultivars the healthiest choices of all, it is also responsible for that hearty taste that either excites or repels those who dine on this vegetable.
As they say, though: the most bitter and grittiest of vegetables tend to be the best for you. (But we think they’re delicious!)
1. Red Ace
A great standard red variety that matures in 55 days.
This cultivar has excellent-sized roots (averaging about the size of a fist) that taste sweeter than most reds and won’t get pithy, even when they grow to be very large.
2. Detroit Dark Red
An excellent storage heirloom variety that produces very good-sized roots on average. It has very dark red flesh, and the greens are great for eating, too. Matures in 60 days.
Detroit reds can be slow to start but produce well once they get going. Delicious raw or cooked.
3. Early Wonder Tall Top
A great all-around variety for use in salads, soups, and pickles, it’s also delicious roasted or boiled. Plus, tall and colorful stalks are wonderful in salads.
This variety matures earlier than any other kind at around 50-52 days — hence its name.
This popular variety is adaptable to all seasons and forms 3- to 4-inch, deep red globes.
You can purchase seeds for this type from True Leaf Market.
4. Bull’s Blood
This variety features deep burgundy-purple leaves instead of the typical greens. These are perfect for use in salads, just the right size with a unique flash of color.
The roots tend to be smaller, and they may have some subtle candy stripes.
Count on around 58 days of growing time until they reach full size.
Seeds for this variety are available from David’s Garden Seeds, via Amazon.
These have longer, more tapered, cylinder-shaped roots of moderate size. Great for pickling, with smaller roots that are also ideal for use in salads. These take a little longer to reach harvest, about 60 days.
Sweeter than many other cylindrical beets, Forono is also known as “Cook’s Delight.” This Italian heirloom variety produces 5- to 8-inch by 2- to 3-inch roots that should be harvested young.
These tubular vegetables are easy to slice for salads and also easy to peel. The greens are delicious, too.
Purchase seeds for Forono from Kings Seeds via Amazon..
7. Ruby Queen
This variety provides smooth, round roots that are great for canning and pickling. This tender vegetable reaches maturity in 55 days, and it retains its color well when processed.
Compared to their scarlet kin, these types have a bright pink to pale red skin on the outside. However, when you slice them open, you’ll find that the flesh is brightly mottled with vivid pink rings or stripes on white, much like a bullseye or peppermint swirl!
When it comes to taste, those who dread the average red beet might have an easier time opening up their minds and hearts to these kinds for a couple of reasons: because they have a mellower, sweeter taste, and also because they’re so uniquely beautiful!
8. Chioggia (and var. aliases)
There appears to be just one commercially available variety of the striped type, though it goes by a number of names: Bassano, Bull’s Eye or Bullseye, Candy Stripe, and Chioggia.
This variety matures at around 50 days.
You can purchase Chioggia seeds from Harley Seeds via Amazon.
The further we climb up the ladder of beet varieties, the more mild and sweet they become, as well as less earthy-tasting.
Though golden beets also contain certain betalains that grant them their orange-to-golden hues, these are less associated with the vegetable’s classic grittiness, and might be more palatable to some folks’ tastes.
Though they’ve become common in some markets, golden beets remain a real novelty to some – and they serve as an exciting vegetable to grow and add to the dinner table!
Do keep in mind that you will have to plant these heavily. Of all cultivars, goldens have the lowest germination rates.
9. Touchstone Gold
A recently bred heirloom variety of great acclaim among golden types, Touchstone Gold’s flesh is gold with some yellow rings visible. It retains its color very well, even after cooking, and it bleeds less into other foods in the same dish than red beets do.
Selected and bred for its higher germination rate over other golden types, the Touchstone comes to maturity in 55 days.
Find Touchstone Gold beet seeds at David’s Garden Seeds via Amazon.
This cultivar is renowned for its very bright golden-yellow color, and it’s brighter than the Touchstone.
It tends to have hardier and more vigorous growth too, though germination has a lower success rate. Expect about 55 days to harvest, or a little less.
The original golden beet variety from Burpee, though this is quite possibly the very same strain as the beet that’s commonly called Golden Detroit. It produces smaller roots than other gold types.
Very versatile, and the roots and greens are great cooked or served raw in salads. These will take about 55 days to reach maturity.
Seeds for this variety are available from True Leaf Market.
Probably the least-known type of beet you can eat, white varieties are nevertheless becoming a popular heirloom gem found in CSA boxes and on market tables.
White beets are the mildest, sweetest, and least earthy-tasting of all because they lack betalain, the pink and yellow pigments found in red and golden beets, and the reason for that polarizing beet-y taste.
But keep in mind: this means that white varieties tend to be the least healthy for you, and they also have a higher sugar content than their more colorful brethren!
If you’re shopping around for white varieties of seed to plant, you may come across some labeled as either sugar or forage beets, probably sold at a bulk or wholesale price.
That’s right: white beets are either commercially grown for sugar (the source of more than half of our table sugar in America today) or as livestock feed for cows, pigs, and the like.
Both can be eaten like any other beet when the roots are young and small, and their greens are delicious. But for sizeable roots that don’t get tough (or incredibly sugary) as they mature, stick to the more pigmented garden-to-table types, or the white varieties bred for non-sugar use listed below.
An heirloom variety of increasing popularity, it produces large, round, and very white roots.
An award-winning white, it matures earlier on average for either a red or white sugar/forage beet, at 50 to 55 days.
13. Baby White/Albino
A common standard white variety for cooking and eating, it’s known to originate from Holland. This variety is very sweet, though it has lower levels of sucralose than most white beets, such as forage or sugar types.
This cultivar matures at the usual rate, between 50-60 days.
Albino beet seeds are available from Caribbean Garden Seed through Amazon.
This open-pollinated variety produces sweet, white roots that are round to slightly conical. The sweet vegetable is lovely in salads with tops that are strong, tall, and all green. This type is ready to harvest in 55 days.
You can find Blankoma seeds at David’s Garden Seeds via Amazon.
15. White Detroit
This large, flavorful root retains its taste through cooking. And like other white varieties, you don’t have to worry about staining your hands when you prepare these. White Detroit matures in about 56 days.
Find White Detroit beet seeds at True Leaf Market.
16. Mangelurzel or Mangold (Forage)
Though this type was bred for animal feed, the greens and small, young roots can be enjoyed by humans, too. Some are white while others are an orange-ish gold, with moderate to high sucralose content.
Unlike other varieties, this kind needs 95-100 days to reach maturity. This is significantly longer than the usual 50-60 – and roots can get very large! Some folks can stomach them at this size, but just a forewarning: they tend to be tough.
While any white beet cultivar can be used to make sugar, varieties labeled “sugar beet” will have the highest sugar content. Like mangelurzel or mangolds, they need up to 100 days to mature, and they can get quite large.
You can find seeds for sugar beets from Harley Seeds via Amazon.
Beets for Everybody!
Is your head spinning from all the choices? There are quite a few, but once you consider the attributes you’re seeking — flavor, color, timing — you ought to be able to find one or two (or six…) that will be just right for your family!
And if you’re not already a family of beet eaters, wouldn’t you just love to introduce a new vegetable to your kids? In our house, it’s “Broccoli again?!” Throw a colorful new vegetable into the rotation, and maybe the kids won’t whine as much.
We’d love to hear which varieties you’ve tried and how they worked out for you. Tell us what part of the country you live in, and share your beet tales in the comments section below!
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Revised and expanded from post originally written by Adrian White. Product photos courtesy of True Leaf Market, Mountain Valley Seed Co., David’s Garden Seeds, Caribbean Garden Seed, and Harley Seeds. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.
The staff at Gardener’s Path are not medical professionals and this article should not be construed as medical advice intended to assess, diagnose, prescribe, or promise cure. Gardener’s Path and Ask the Experts, LLC assume no liability for the use or misuse of the material presented above. Always consult with a medical professional before changing your diet or using plant-based remedies or supplements for health and wellness.
About Gretchen Heber
A former garden editor for a daily newspaper in Austin, Texas, Gretchen Heber goes through entirely too many pruners and garden gloves in a year’s time. She’s never met a succulent she didn’t like and gets really irritated every 3-4 years when Austin actually has a freeze cold enough to kill them. To Gretchen, nothing is more rewarding than a quick dash to the garden to pluck herbs to season the evening meal. And it’s definitely time for a happy dance when she’s able to beat the squirrels to the peaches, figs, or loquats.