Beets have been in cultivation for a very, very long time.  Like Bronze Age long. I’m pretty certain Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses ate beets. Beets were domesticated in the Mediterranean region, spreading to Babylonia by the 8 th century BCE and China by 850 CE. During this time, the popular variety of beet was the "leaf beet," grown for their leafy greens not root; it wasn’t until the 19 th century that "tuberous beet" varieties were grown commercially for sucrose, an alternative to tropical sugar cane.

Sugar beets were developed in Germany in the late 18 th century. Though part of the same group, "tuberous beet," sugar beets are different than the market vegetable varieties. They are lower in sugar and come in some very pretty colours. Garden beet varieties include: Chioggia (candy-striped, cherry red and white), Bull’s Blood (deep red-purple), Detroit Dark Red (bright crimson), Early Wonder tall top (classic red),  and Golden Detroit (orange exterior with yellow interior).

Beets can be eaten in nearly in their entirety: the leaves and root are both delicious. The leaves of beets can be eaten raw or cooked; they are surprisingly salty, and tender when young. The root or tuber is great raw, baked, roasted, grilled, pickled – pretty much in any way, you can’t go wrong! Wash beets and trim leaves from the root. Air dry the leaves and store like salad greens. Store roots in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.

Garden beets are low in calories, but high in fibre, vitamins, and minerals. Beets are high in Glycine betaine, which helps promote blood flow and reduce blood clots. Raw beets are an excellent source of folates; contain significant amounts of Vitamin C, Vitamin A (in the leaves), and Vitamin Bs (3, 5, 6 in the root). Magnese, magnesium, and potassium are also found in beet root.

Factoid: Chard is actually a relative of the beet family. Chard is grown for its leaves and thick, fleshy ribs. Like beets, chard comes in a variety of colours. A mutation of an ancient variety of beet – spinach beet – is thought to have produced chard.