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Why Are My Garden Beets Bitter – How Early Harvest Affects Taste!

Beets are an excellent addition to any garden and dinner table. Not only do beets taste great, but they are also incredibly nutritious. Growing beets can be a difficult task for many gardeners, though. Unfortunately, issues with growing beets can also lead to bitter-tasting beets that are not very enjoyable. So why do beets get bitter anyway? 

Often, beets become bitter because they are underwatered or have gone bad in storage. However, stunted growth and deformities can also cause beets to be bitter. Harvesting beets either too early or too late can also lead to beets not tasting as good as they should. 

In this article, we will explain the possible causes of a bitter taste in beets. We will also explain whether or not you should eat a bitter beet. Let’s jump right into it! 

What Causes Beets To Be Bitter? 

There are several possible causes for very bitter-tasting beets. Most of the time, this problem is caused by poorly timed harvesting, underwatering, or storage issues. However, poor growth and development can lead to bad-tasting beets as well. Here are all of the causes for bitter garden beets. 

Underwatering Can Cause Beets To Be Bitter And Dried Out 

Underwatering beets will usually lead to beetroots that are very dry and bitter. This phenomenon is thanks to the compound geosmin. Geosmin is a compound that gives beets their bitter flavor.

When beets are well-watered, this geosmin is well-balanced, leaving the beet with a mildly bitter taste paired with natural sweetness. However, beets that are underwatered tend to have a very high geosmin concentration, leading to a bitter-tasting root. 

When watering beets, it is recommended that they receive around 1 inch of water per week. The soil around your beets should always be moist, and planting them in well-draining soil will prevent the beets from being damaged by this amount of water. Doing this will help prevent your beets from becoming bitter and dried out. 

Waiting Too Long To Harvest Beets Can Make Them Bitter And Difficult To Eat

Beets that have been in the ground too long will usually be very large and tough in texture. This makes overripe beets difficult to eat. Additionally, overripe beets often have a slightly more bitter taste than normal. 

Beets become ripe and ready to harvest somewhere between 55 and 70 days after planting, which is roughly two months. Waiting past this 70-day mark is sure to lead to overripe beets.

Once your beets have been planted in the ground for 55 days, it is best to check their size regularly to see if they are ready for harvesting. Beets that are a little larger than golf balls are ready to harvest. 

Harvesting Beets Too Early Can Make Them Bitter 

Harvesting beets before they are fully ripe can also lead to bitter-tasting beets. This is especially true if the beets have been harvested when they are smaller than a golf ball.

Additionally, it is recommended that gardeners wait to harvest their beets until around 55 days after planting at a minimum. Underripe beets will be very bitter due to the high concentration of the compound geosmin. 

Stunted And Deformed Beets Can Also Be Bitter 

Like most other vegetables, stunted and deformed beets do not usually taste very good and will often taste very bitter. A variety of problems can cause stunted growth and other deformities in beets. Most of the time, this is caused by very acidic soil, underwatering, and lack of sunlight during growth.

However, pest infestations, disease, and overcrowding can also cause beets to be unusually small and bitter in taste due to their negative impacts on the beet’s growth and development. 

Beets Get Bitter When They Have Gone Bad In Storage 

Beets also tend to get bitter as they are going bad in storage. This is especially true if the beets are being stored in a moist and/or warm environment because warmth and moisture tend to make beets rot more quickly. It is always best to store beets in a cool and dry environment to keep them from going bad quickly. 

You should always remove rotting beets from the bunch to prevent further rotting beets because rot can spread from vegetable to vegetable. Often, beets will be noticeably rotten due to their smell and appearance. Rotting beets will often have a foul smell and will appear mushy or discolored. 

Should You Eat A Bitter Beet? 

It is not recommended that you continue eating a beet that tastes very bitter. Not only do very bitter beets taste bad, but this can also signify that a beet is starting to go bad. Similarly, it is never a good idea to eat a rotting vegetable.

Eating a vegetable that has been infected with a disease or affected by pest infestation is also a bad idea. Although beets harvested too late or too early are usually technically fine to eat, they will likely have a very strong bitter taste that will also put many people off.