Cold Weather Champs and Colorful Beets by Patty Leander

beet-greens-ice

Ice-covered one day, on the dinner table the next.

How ‘bout that kale?! It hardly skipped a beat despite temperatures that dropped to 18° here in my southwest Austin garden. Brussels sprouts, collards and garlic also came through unscathed. They are truly cold-weather champs. The broccoli, cabbage and cilantro drooped a little after thawing but all recovered just fine. Carrots and radishes suffered some freeze damage above ground but the roots were protected below.

beets-flowers

Though I didn’t have time to cover my plants I did dash outside for a quick pre-freeze harvest.

Swiss chard, peas and cauliflower, however, didn’t fare so well. All are susceptible to damage when temperatures drop into the 20s. Had I covered them with frost cloth they would have done fine but I didn’t have a chance and ended up with droopy, mushy plants that could not be salvaged. If you notice less than stellar cauliflower at local Famers Markets it can probably be attributed to the frigid weather. Thankfully the worst of the cold has passed and cole crops, root crops and peas can go into the garden now to provide a harvest about two months down the road. Keep an eye on the weather forecast and protect vulnerable plants if another hard freeze threatens.

Golden-Beets

Colorful, flavorful beets: ‘Chioggia’, ‘Detroit Dark Red’ and ‘Golden’

The National Gardening Bureau has proclaimed 2018 as the Year of the Beet –Beta vulgaris. Did you know that vulgaris in Latin means common? That’s right, there is nothing vulgar about flavorful, jewel-toned beets. If one of your resolutions is to increase the plant slant in your diet be sure to include beets. From round to oblong, maroon to white and heirloom to hybrid most varieties can be grown in Texas during cooler weather. This year I’m looking forward to trying a recent introduction called ‘Shiraz’; a disease resistant variety developed in a collaborative effort through the Organic Seed Alliance (available from High Mowing Seeds: www.highmowingseeds.com).

beet-tops-roots

Double the pleasure with greens and roots.

Beets offer something to enjoy both above and below the soil, with tender greens and tasty roots, and a good dose of fiber, potassium, folate and health-promoting antioxidants. One of my favorite ways to eat them is to roast them slowly in the oven. Whole or sliced into wedges, scrubbed but unpeeled, they go into the oven lightly coated with oil and wrapped in foil and come out tender, earthy and delicious.

mature-beets

Harvest beets before they reach baseball size; these overgrown beet roots are tough and stringy inside but those succulent tops will make a luscious pot of beet greens.

To some people the earthiness of beets is overpowering. I often hear “they taste like dirt” but that is likely due to variety and/or sensitive palates – some beets contain larger amounts of an organic compound called geosmin, the more geosmin the stronger that muddy flavor comes through. For beets with more sweetness and less earthiness, harvest when young and tender and remove the skin which contains higher concentrations of geosmin. If you are especially sensitive to the mustiness of beets try growing ‘Detroit Dark Red’, ‘Avalanche’, ‘Crosby Egyptian’ and ‘Golden’ which are all low in geosmin.

All-America-Beets

Ditch the dirt flavor with ‘Avalanche’ (photo courtesy All-America Selections) and ‘Golden’ beets.

The popular heirloom beet with the striped candy cane interior known as ‘Chioggia’ has high levels of geosmin; perhaps best avoided by folks who have an aversion to the robust “flavor” of garden soil.

For more on growing beets check out Jay’s post here: http://masterofhort.com/2013/01/growing-beets-beta-vulgaris/

red-shouldered-hawk

Our view from the bathroom window has become more interesting lately. I think this is a red-shouldered hawk but would love corroboration or correction from any bird experts out there.

A new year means a new gardening season ripe with opportunities to improve our home-grown harvest and increase our vegetable consumption. Sowing in succession, growing vertically, interplanting and plant protection help maximize our efforts in the vegetable garden. Cheers to your harvest AND your health!

 

I share my posts on The Simple Homestead Blog Hop.  Be sure to stop by and check out all the amazing things these gardeners and homesteaders are doing!

7 thoughts on “Cold Weather Champs and Colorful Beets by Patty Leander

  1. Patty–Nice reading, as always. Our garden in south Austin came through ok. Great survivor is Portuguese kale…beriea tronchuda…cut and come again, and still growing. Have started hardy rootstock seed. Tomato plants are 2-3 inches tall.

  2. Hi Harry! Thanks for the comments. That kale really likes cold weather – it’s nice to grow an edible that you don’t have to worry about when the temperature plummets.

    • DO OR DO NOT…THERE IS NO TRY. Ha ha, I’ve got Star Wars on the brain lately! The favorable forecast over the next week or so will certainly make the task more enjoyable.

  3. I grow winter beets and they get quite large. I’ve always used Detroit variety and they never get tough or stringy, even the very large ones. My only problem is that a mouse or vole has moved into my floating garden. Not sure how it got there, but it has been eating my beets from the bottom up. When I pulled some last week they looked good on the surface, but only little teeth marks were underneath. I have to set traps to get them before spring planting comes. – Margy

    • I know it is disappointing to loose your harvests to mammals. While I don’t have voles I have huge issues with rabbits. Very, very frustrating. I don’t want to kill them and they are too smart to go into traps!

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