The humble beet is one of the most reliable members of the vegetable garden. A member of the Amaranthaceae family, along with spinach, amaranth and celosia, the beet has been cultivated as part of the vegetable garden for centuries. A herbaceous vegetable, the beet, or beetroot, is native to the Mediterranean, the European Atlantic coast and India.
Whilst the small red beet is the most commonly grown, these hardy vegetables actually come in a range of shapes, sizes and colors. This guide to 10 tasty types of beets is designed to not only explain the differences between the main varieties but also to highlight some of the most popular and flavorsome cultivars currently available.
The humble beet comes in a range of shapes, sizes and colors.
Different Beet Cultivars
The beet, also known as the beetroot or the table beet, is a hardy root vegetable. There are many different types of beets currently available. One of the easiest ways to group the different varieties is by color:
- Red, this is the classic beet in terms of shape and color. Purple and red-purple types of beets can also be classed as Red. The most commonly grown of all the types of beets, a pigment called betalain is responsible for both the color and the flavor of the red beet. Versatile and full of flavor, Reds often take on the flavor of food items cooked with them. Commonly grown Red varieties include Crapaudine, Detroit Dark Red and Crosby Egyptian.
- Gold, these are typically milder and sweeter than Red varieties. They also have a more earthy flavor. Typically yellow or golden in color, the mild flavor of the Gold or Golden variety tends to sweeten when roasted. Typically 4 inches in diameter, Gold types of beets can be grown throughout the year but are at their best in the fall. Golden varieties have a lower germination rate than other types of beets. Golden Detroit and Burpees Golden Beet are two of the most popular varieties.
- White types of beets are usually Dutch heirloom varieties. Milder and sweeter than other varieties, they are also the least earthy tasting. This is because the betalain compound which gives the other varieties their color is absent in the White beet. Round in shape, the White is best grown as an annual. Most varieties mature in around 60 days. This slows slightly if they are planted as part of a late summer or early winter garden. One of the smaller varieties, the White beet is ideal for small gardens and containers.
- Candy Stripe varieties typically have pink or pale red skin. When cut open, pink or red and white rings, similar to a candy cane, are visible. These are heirloom vegetables that were first introduced to the United States in the 19th century. Popular for their earthy, sweet flavor, many Candy Stripe types of beets can be grown throughout the year. Working well with kale, spinach and carrots, common Candy Stripe types include Bassano and Chioggia.
The beet is one of the most colorful and versatile vegetables.
There is also the Sugar Beet. Conical in shape and with an off white coloring, the Sugar Beet can look like the turnip. A purely commercial variety, the Sugar Beet is neither eaten nor grown at home. Rich in sucrose, around 20% of the world’s sugar production comes from commercially produced sugar beet crops.
You may also see Baby Beetroots advertized. This name refers to any of the many types of beets that are harvested before they reach their full size to make way for other cultivars or crops. These can be a range of different colors and varieties. Baby beetroots are typically tender as are their versatile greens.
Finally, there is also the Mangel Wurzel or Mangold beet. This heirloom variety is an increasingly popular member of the vegetable garden. A fat, top heavy vegetable, in terms of shape the Mangel Wurzel is best described as a cross between the carrot and the beet. A large variety, the Mammoth Red Mangel can weigh as much as 20 pounds. The Mangel Wurzel root is typically white or golden-yellow in color with a sweet flavor. They can be mashed, pickled, juiced or used raw in salads. High in antioxidants and vitamins, the Mangel Wurzel thrives in cooler climates.
10 Types of Beets
Now that we have established just how many different beet varieties there are, the following are 10 of the best types of beets. They are all rich in flavor and suitable for growing in a range of conditions.
Avalanche is one of the white types of beets. Avalanche has a pleasantly mild, sweet flavor. The creamy white roots are sweeter than many red varieties. This sweetness is coupled with a crunchy texture which is ideal for including in salads, soups and stews. They can also be roasted.
Harvest Avalanche types of beets after 50 days when the roots are 2 to 3 inches in diameter. Instead of discarding the light green tops, use them as a side dish.
The white beet has a pleasant, sweet flavor.
2 Bull’s Blood
Bull’s Blood is an heirloom cultivar, developed from Crapaudine, an old French variety in the 1980s. The deep purple leaves of Bull’s Blood not only have ornamental attraction, adding interest to the vegetable bed, they can also be used as microgreens. Bull’s Blood leaves are a great way to add color to salads. They can also be sauteed.
The deep red roots are sweet with a slight earthy flavor. Best harvested when the roots measure 3 inches in diameter, younger specimens, in particular, lack the bitterness of other types of beets. Roots are usually ready for harvest in 50 days while the leaves can be trimmed after just 35 days.
Chioggia is one of the increasingly popular Candy Stripe types of beets. An heirloom variety which is named after the Italian town where it was developed, when a Chioggia beet is cut open concentric pink and white rings are visible. Popular for its delicate, sweet flavor, the Chioggia beet is best used raw, such as in a salad. Cooking can cause the colorful pattern to fade.
Harvest the crispy greens after 50 days, the roots can be lifted after 60 or as soon as they measure 1 inch in diameter.
When sliced open, Chioggia’s pattern is revealed.
Merlin is one of the sweetest red beet varieties currently available. A F1 hybrid cultivar, Merlin was intentionally bred to have a high sugar content. Merlin tolerates both heat and cold well and, like many hybrids, is pleasingly disease resistant.
Merlin is an easy to grow cultivar, reliably producing uniform beets measuring 2 to 3 inches in size. When raw the roots are crisp becoming tender when cooked. Merlin’s glossy, dark green tops are also full of flavor. The roots are ready for harvest around 55 days after sowing the seeds. You can start to cut the greens after 30 to 40 days.
Merlin is a sweet, red beet.
5 Boldor Beet
The Boldor Beet is best planted in full sun. The rose-gold root is ready for harvest in around 55 days. The bright green leaves, which can be harvested sooner, are also edible. Like other types of beets the greens are rich in both nutrients and flavor. The Boldor Beet is a versatile option which can be cooked in a range of ways. During cooking the rose-gold root darkens to an intense orange color.
One of the larger types of beets, if you are growing a couple of Boldor Beet plants in a container garden try to use as large a container as possible. A 3 gallon container pot is ideal.
Cylindra is a Danish heirloom variety which dates back to the 1880s. Also known as the Butter Slicer or Formanova beet, Cylindra roots often look more like a carrot than a beet. 9 inches long, depending on the climate the Cylindra beet can mature in 50 to 80 days. They can also be picked earlier as a baby beet after around 35 to 40 days. Like other types of beets, the Cylindra cultivar thrives in cool weather. A temperature averaging between 60 and 70 ℉ is ideal.
Burgundy in color and cylindrical in shape, this is a fine grained beet with a pleasing texture and sweet flavor. Peaking in mid summer, the Cylindra is a great summer variety that can be baked, pickled, roasted or used in salads.
Wear gloves when handling the Cylindra beet. The color can stain hands and clothing.
Cylindra’s carrot-like roots.
7 Lutz Green Leaf
A large root, ideal for storage, the Lutz Green Leaf is also known as the Winterkeeper. The name Winterkeeper refers to the roots ability to store well for long periods without losing flavor and becoming woody. If you want to learn more about storing Winterkeeper, as well as other types of beets, our How to Store Beets Guide is a great place to start.
One of the more versatile types of beets, Lutz Green Leaf’s deep red tubers can be roasted, pickled or used in salads, soups and stews. The greens, which taste like Swiss Chard, can be sauteed in butter and garlic. Lutz Green Leaf’s 4 to 6 inch diameter roots are fully grown in around 65 days. However, they can also be lifted earlier for a baby beet crop.
Suitable for roasting, pickling or eating fresh, the beet can be used in a range of culinary dishes.
8 Golden Detroit
Golden Detroit is a sweet and mild heirloom variety. Ideal for both cooking or enjoying raw in salads, the yellow-orange oval roots of Golden Detroit can measure 1 to 3 inches in diameter.
Further adding to the attraction, the light green tops have pale stems. Ideal in summer salads, these microgreens are not bitter. While the leaves can be cut and enjoyed after 40 to 45 days the roots take slightly longer. They can typically be picked around 55 days after sowing the seeds.
9 Detroit Dark Red
Another of the classic heirloom types of beets, Detroit Dark Red produces round red with a smooth skin. Sweet and mild in flavor, this tender cultivar can be used raw, roasted or canned. The dark green tops are also tender and full of flavor. Adding visual appeal to the vegetable plot, the dark green leaves are marked with bright red stems and veins.
The roots, measuring around 3 inches wide, are ready for harvest after 60 days. The greens can be cut after 35 days.
Detroit Dark Red leafy greens have visible red markings.
10 Touchstone Gold
With its golden flesh, Touchstone Gold is a popular hybrid cultivar. Further adding to the attraction, when sliced open clear concentric rings are visible. Mild and sweet in flavor, pleasingly the roots retain their rich orange color when cooked.
The smooth skinned roots of Touchstone Gold typically measure 3 inches in diameter. They are ready for lifting usually 55 days after the seeds germinate. The green tops, with attractive yellow stems, can also be cut and used in salads or stir fries.
Golden varieties tend to be sweeter than the more common red beet.
Beet Care Tips
A reliable root vegetable, the beet is one of the easiest vegetables to cultivate from seed.
Always purchase your seed from a reputable supplier. Seeds are best started in Eassen Seed Starting Trays or small pots filled with moist potting soil. You can also directly sow the seeds into their final growing position.
Sow the seeds as thinly as possible and cover with a light layer of potting soil. Regularly dampen the soil, keep it moist until the seeds germinate. When watering seedlings I like to use a spray bottle such as the Yebeauty Plant Mister Spray Bottle. This enables me to soak the soil with a fine spray, preventing any accidental drowning of delicate seedlings.
After around 6 weeks of steady growth the seedlings will be ready for transplanting into the garden.
Remember to harden the beet seedlings off before transplanting into the final growing position. Take this time to prepare your soil, weeding and breaking up large clumps of earth as well as working in any necessary nutrients. Work the soil down to a depth of around 8 inches. All types of beets do best in loose soil. The soil should have a pH level of between 6.0 and 6.8
After transplanting, or thinning out if you started the seeds directly into their final growing position, mulch the soil with a layer of leaves or straw. This discourages weed growth and also helps the soil to retain moisture. If you are growing more than one variety, Plant Labels provide a quick and useful way to differentiate easily between similar looking plants.
Once transplanted, aside from a regular drink of water to ensure that the soil doesn’t dry out, the growing beet requires little regular care. These resilient vegetables can be grown throughout the year, in slightly warmer climates they are an integral part of the fall or winter vegetable garden.
The Benefits of the Beet
Despite its small size the beet is a natural superfood. Most varieties are rich in a range of nutrients, including vitamin B, iron, copper, potassium and magnesium.
They are also high in sugar. In addition to the versatile roots, the greens, or tops, are also edible. These provide a tasty alternative to spinach or Swiss chard. The greens can be steamed, sauteed or used in salads, soups and stews.
The beet has many benefits and uses.
If you don’t want to eat your beetroots, you can also use them to create a homemade hair dye or lotion.
Easy to grow and full of natural goodness, if you want to learn more about growing the beet, check out our Guide to Growing Beets.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.