You're likely familiar with the common red beets (Beta vulgaris), sold fresh or canned at the grocery store, but many other types exists. Heirloom beets are old-fashioned beet varieties and are the same today as they were a hundred or more years ago. Various types of distinctive beets have unusual colors and shapes, while miniature beets are much smaller than standard beets. These root vegetables are an annual crop that typically ripens in about two months, though some varieties may take slightly longer.
All varieties of beets are fairly similar in their requirements. As cool-season vegetables they are best planted in sandy or loamy soil early in the spring or in the fall. Beets require full sun for proper development.
‘Detroit Dark Red’
‘Detroit Dark Red’ beet (Beta vulgaris‘ Detroit Dark Red’) tops the lists of university extension site recommendations. This round beet is a deep, rich red and grows to between 2 1/2 and 3 inches in diameter. It is tolerant of a wide range of temperatures and soil conditions. It takes 59 days to harvest.
‘Big Red’ beet (Beta vulgaris ‘Big Red’) is a good producer when sown late in the season, producing excellent yields and delicious flavor. About 5 inches in diameter, its take 55 days to be ready for harvest.
The ‘Bulls Blood’ beet (Beta vulgaris ‘Bulls Blood’) gets its name from the deep red color of both the leaves -- which can be eaten like lettuce -- and the beet itself. It has a sweet, earthy flavor. The juice of this beet is used in Sweden to make red food coloring. It takes an average of 59 days to harvest.
‘Lutz Green Leaf’
‘Lutz Green Leaf’ beet (Beta vulgaris ‘Lutz Green Leaf’) grows as much as four times the size of other types of beets, but is at its sweetest when harvested while still small. It keeps well in winter and produces tasty greens. It averages 70 to 80 days to harvest.
‘Golden’ beet (Beta vulgaris ‘Golden’) isn’t red like many types of beets, but has a golden color. Still, there’s no mistaking the taste. It has a flavor just like other beet, plus the added advantage of not “bleeding” red when handled or cooked. The greens are also tender and flavorful. It takes around 55 days to harvest.
Chioggia beet (Beta vulgaris ‘Chioggia’) is an heirloom variety with a distinctive look. It has alternating layers of red and white flesh, giving it a striped appearance. It makes a dramatic addition as a side dish or in salads. It takes 55 days to harvest.
‘Little Ball’ beets (Beta vulgaris ‘Little Ball’) are much smaller than many beets, growing to no more than 2 inches across. They tend to be uniform in size and shape with tender red flesh. They are quick growers and ready to harvest in 50 days.
‘Baby Candy Cane’
The ‘Baby Candy Cane’ beet (Beta vulgaris ‘Baby Candy Cane’) is a miniature variety of beet that is very sweet. Its combination of sweetness and the alternating lays of red and white flesh give it its name. It’s attractive in a salad or as a side dish by itself. It takes only 52 days to harvest.