When to harvest beets – for perfect and tasty results every time

Master when to harvest beets and you can enjoy this nutritious crop year round

Beets
(Image credit: Alamy)

Discover when to harvest beets so you can gather your crop with confidence. Easy to grow whether you are a first time or experienced veg grower, this delicious root is packed with health-boosting minerals and vitamins while low in calories. What’s more it’s quick to grow from seed, demanding little more than fertile soil and regular watering – particularly during dry spells. 

Besides being delicious, there’s a huge number of different beetroot varieties to try in varying colors, from deepest purple to orange, yellow, white, plus red with white rings. We grow beets because they are spectacular in recipes, but they also look stunning in the veg patch or planted in containers and the leaves are pretty striking and tasty too. 

To make the most of these roots it’s important to know the best time to harvest them. Too early and you can enjoy tiny – and still delectable – results but leave them in the ground too long and they will turn tough, woody and tasteless. Follow our handy guide so you can get it right.

‘From earthy to sweet, the flavors of beets are sure to please. This cool-weather root crop is easy to grow and versatile, proving delicious and nutritious from its rich greens to its round or oblong root,’ says Kelly Funk, President of Park Seed (opens in new tab). ‘Typically, reddish-purple but also available in white, golden-yellow, or even rainbow colors such as a customer favorite Rainbow Mix. Beets are great for canning and pickling (smaller beets are best for this), eating raw, and much more!’

When to harvest beets

Depending on when you plant beets, or more accurate, sow your beets, they can be harvested early summer through to mid fall. Stagger the sowing and vary the crop type so you can continually feast on fresh produce 

‘Beets are quite easy to harvest, you can pull them at a range of different sizes depending on your culinary preference!’ says  Shannie McCabe at Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co (opens in new tab)

‘I typically sow my beets densely, allowing them to become a bit crowded. I harvest baby/midsized beets early, when they are about 1-2 inches (2.5-5cm) in diameter, and allow the remaining beets to fill in the space and become larger beets, harvested when much larger – up to 6 inches (15cm) across or more in some cases.’

When to pick beet leaves

Tender, tasty and colorful too, small beet leaves make a great addition to salads and stir fries. Larger leaves can be used in the same way as spinach and are full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Work your way around the plant, harvesting the larger outer leaves first.

‘Harvest the leaves when they’re about 4-6in (10-15cm) tall,’ says Kelly Funk, President, Park Seed. ‘Don’t take more than 2 leaves from each plant to keep it healthy and leave at least 1in (2.5cm) on the root. They are delicious in salads.’

When to harvest globe beet varieties

Ever popular globe beets – varieties include stripy Di Chioggia, Avenger and Sangria – usually take between 8-10 weeks to mature. 

‘Beets are generally ready to harvest when their above “shoulders” look full sized, the roots should be fully rounded out. You can always check by pulling a couple roots and checking. Beets usually come out of the ground when you gently pull them at the base of the top. If they don’t come out easily this way, you can use a pitchfork. Make sure to insert the pitchfork far enough away from the roots to avoid puncturing them,’ advises Emily Pence, Seeds Field Coordinator Fedco Seeds, Inc (opens in new tab).

When to harvest cylindra shaped beets 

Also known as Formanova beets, these crops are long and cylindrical in shape. With the same earthy flavor and range of colors as their globe cousins, cylindra beets are high producing and great for making most of small spaces. They are also easy to slice evenly, making them ideal for pickling and preserving. Slightly slower growing than the round type they take around 20 weeks to fully develop.

When to harvest beets to store

‘Beet roots and greens will keep in your garden for two to three weeks after they have matured, and once harvested, the roots will keep for up to a month (store near freezing, with high humidity to prevent wilting),’ advises Kelly Funk, President of Park Seed.

How do I know when the beets are ready to harvest?

You know when beets are ready to harvest by how far above the soil their shoulders are protruding. To check, simply move the mulch or soil away from the top of the beets; if their tops are an inch or more above the soil, they will be ready to harvest. That said, you can harvest beets earlier when they are less mature for sweet flavor, though you won't get the bulk you might need or want. 

Jill Morgan
Jill Morgan

Jill Morgan has spent the last 20 years writing for Interior and Gardening magazines both in print and online. Titles she has been lucky enough to work on include House Beautiful, The English

Home, Ideal Home, Modern Gardens and Gardeningetc.com. Although much of her career has involved commissioning and writing about reader homes and home improvement projects, her

everlasting passion is for gardens and outdoor living, which is what she writes about for Homes & Gardens.