About Chioggia Beet: Chiogga heirloom beets come from the northern Italian coastal town of Chioggia, and arrived in America around 1865. However, beets seem to have originated in the Mediterrenean region, where people grew them for thousands of years. Later, beets grew in Germany and Holland and were used as cattle fodder; they were later imported to England for this purpose, but the poor began to raise them for an affordable food source. American colonists later brought them to the New World, where they became a commonly enjoyed food both for their roots and their greens.
Chioggia Beet Germination: Plant a full month before the last expected frost. Presoak seeds for two hours before planting to soften the hard seed coat and speed germination. Direct sow in full sun and well drained soil, placing the seeds 1/2" deep and 2-4" apart in rows 1-2' apart. Add compost or other organic matter for healthy growth, and tamp down the earth above the seeds to ensure the seed's close contact with the soil. Germination should take place in 7-14 days. For companion planting benefits, plant beets with bush beans, onions, or members of the cabbage family; avoid planting them near pole beans.
Growing Chioggia Beet Seeds: Since each beet "seed" holds up to eight actual seeds, the seedlings will need to be thinned to 4" apart. The thinned plants do well as a second crop, as transplanting them will slow their growth for about two weeks behind the original plants. Keep the young plants watered and weeded, taking care not to bruise the tender young plants when weeding. They can survive temperatures down to 25 degrees F.
Harvesting Chioggia Beet: Beets can be harvested any time after they reach a size of 1" in diameter, usually after about two months of growth. For best taste and tenderness, do not allow beets to grow over 3" in diameter. After pulling them, twist off the tops about 1" up the stem to prevent the beets from bleeding. Up to one third of the tasty beet greens can also be harvested without damaging the plant. In order to preserve the unique coloring of Chioggia beets, process them whole and slice right before serving.
Saving Chioggia Beet Seeds: Since beets are wind pollinated, be sure to separate them from other varieties of chard and beet by at least two miles to preserve genetic purity. Beet plants must weather the winter in order to produce seed; in warmer climates, simply mulch the plants. In cooler climates, dig up the roots and store them in sand, without the roots touching, in a cool and humid location; plant them in early spring. In the spring, the plants will go to seed; wait until the seed heads are fully grown and dry before removing them. The seeds will readily come off the stems after they are completely dry. Store the seed in a cool, dry place for up to five years.
Detailed Chioggia Beet Info: Beta vulgaris. Also known as Candy-Stripe or Bassano. Biennial. 55 days to maturity. 2800 seeds an oz. 6-12" height. 2-4" spacing. Produces 2-3" beets with alternating pink and white rings, with pink stemmed green tops.