Now Sowing: Beets (mid-July) and Chard (mid-August)

Image of Beets
Image courtesy of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Common Name: Beets, Chard, Swiss Chard (Beta vulgaris)

Find seeds in the catalog

Seed Saving Level: Advanced; will cross-pollinate with different varieties of beets/chard. Wind pollinated. Separate by ½ mile or grow one family member at a time to ensure purity.

Planting: Direct sow seeds late July or in August about 2 inches apart and ½ inch deep in rows 20-24 inches apart. Seeds germinate in 5-15 days. Thin beets to 4-6 inches apart; chard to 6-12 inches apart. Can be planted at 2 week intervals for continuous harvests. Both like full sun, and they are fairly frost tolerant if well mulched. All parts of the beet plant are edible. No major pests.

Harvesting: To harvest greens for salads while keeping the roots growing, cut no more than ¼ of the leaves from one plant. In the fall, pull beets up around 75-80 days to prevent them from becoming woody and tough (pull up around 60 days in the spring/summer).

Seed Saving: If grown in the fall and left in the ground over winter, beets will seed in spring. Biennial when planted in the spring. Harvest seed heads when dry. After most of the flowers have turned brown, cut stalks at the soil line, keeping seed heads bagged as they shatter. Move to cool, dry place for 2-3 weeks.

Sources: Seed to Seed (2002) by Suzanne Ashworth, Complete Guide to Saving Seeds (2011) by Robert Gough and Cheryl Moore-Gough, International Seed Saving Institute, and Seed Savers Exchange.

Recipe: Roasted Heirloom Beet Terrine

by Paul Kulik, The Boiler Room, Omaha, NE

1 pound red beets

1 pound chioggia beets

1 pound yellow beets

3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing

4 cloves garlic, minced

¼ tsp. ground cayenne pepper, plus more for garnish

Salt, to taste

2 cups chicken stock

3 large leeks (whites only), washed and sliced

Pumpkin seed oil, for garnish

Fresh, tender, leafy herbs (such as tarragon or chervil), for garnish

8 slices prosciutto

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Trim the beet tops and ends, but leave the skin on. Tear enough pieces of aluminum foil to wrap each beet individually, and set the beets in the center of each piece of foil. Coat the beets with the olive oil and season with the garlic, cayenne pepper, and salt to taste. Wrap the beets up and bake until tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

In a large pot, bring the chicken stock to a boil. Add the leek whites and poach until tender. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

If you have a heavy terrine mold, use it; if not, 2 loaf pans (8 inch or otherwise) and 5 15-ounce cans (unopened) will work. You just need something to help compress the beets. Line the mold with plastic wrap, leaving some of the plastic hanging over the edge on all sides.

Remove the beets from the oven. Cool a bit, then unwrap and peel them by rubbing the skin off with a towel. Evenly and thinly slice the beets and then layer in the mold. Gently brush each layer with some of the olive oil and slightly season with the salt. Take care to group the beets together by color, because the colors will bleed.

When halfway up the mold, place a layer of leeks from end to end, then continue adding layers of the beets. When full, pull the plastic wrap tightly over the top and side of the beets. Top with a 5-pound weight to press it together, or set a second loaf pan on top of the beets and fill it with the cans. Chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of 24 hours.

To serve, open the plastic wrap and invert the beets onto a plate. Remove the plastic wrap. Using a sharp knife, slice at the desired width. Put each slice on a plate and drizzle with the pumpkin seed oil. Add a slight sprinkle of cayenne pepper around the plate. Top with a small amount of tender herbs. Add a rosette of prosciutto to the side of the beets and serve.

Source: New Prairie Kitchen (2015) by Summer Miller

Recipe: Swiss Chard with Honey-Roasted Garlic

2 heads of garlic

2 teaspoons honey

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons salted butter

2 tablespoons pine nuts

2 bunches (almost 2 pounds) Swiss chard, stripped of stems and cut into 1 inch pieces (10 cups)

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the top ½ inch off each head of garlic, exposing the cloves. Set the garlic in the center of a square of heavy aluminum foil. Pour 1 teaspoon of the honey and the olive oil over the garlic, replace the tops, and fold up the sides of the foil to make a package, crimping the top tight. Bake until very tender and golden, 30 minutes.

Transfer the baked garlic to a bowl, including all the juices in the foil pouch. When cool enough to handle, remove the garlic heads and pop out the garlic cloves by pushing up from the bottom. Add the remaining teaspoon honey and stir to combine.

Heat a ver wide skillet over medium heat, and add the butter and pine nuts. When they begin to sizzle, add half of the Swiss chard. Cook, stirring, until the greens wilt, a minute or two. Add the remaining chard. Season with salt and pepper, and cook until most of the liquid has shimmered off, another 2 or 3 minutes.

Add the honey roasted garlic, mix very gently to combine and serve.

Source: The New Midwestern Table (2013) by Amy Thielen

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