As the nights grow longer and the first cold snap appears in the air, I start craving the earthy goodness of beets. This rustic root veg is humble in the vegetable kingdom, but I find that beets come into their own in the autumn and the winter.
On a cold winter’s night there’s nothing quite so warming as the inimitable dark red of a beetroot soup being served up, steam rolling off the top. I start roasting beets by the pound, knowing that they bring a wholesome heartiness to salads and side dishes.
That means that if I see big vibrant red beets on sale in the store or, even better, at the farmer’s market I can’t help but stock up. They’re also super easy to grow at home! Beets are sturdy veg that can grow in almost any kind of soil, so if you have the space it makes sense to get some beets on the go. Pulling up a fresh beet and dusting it off to see that red-brown tinged skin is one of the most satisfying experiences in cultivation.
If you’re like me and you love beets you’ll no doubt find yourself in beet overload at some point, and wondering: how long will these beets last? Let’s find out if beets can go bad – and what you can do if you have surplus beets to extend their shelf life a while.
Do Beets Go Bad? How Long Do They Last?
As a root vegetable, beets are pretty hardy. But like any other fresh vegetable, they still go bad eventually.
How long your beets will last will depend on how you store them. If your vegetable drawer is overflowing and you keep your fresh beets in the pantry, you can expect them to last for around three to five days.
Keeping your beets in the fridge will extend their lifespan a good while longer. Stored properly, your beets will be good in the fridge for up to two weeks. If you can resist them for that long!
If you’re like me and you like to keep some cooked beets on hand for salads and spontaneous sides, you’ll want to know how long they’ll last. My favourite ways to eat beets are roasted and mashed. The vibrant color and deep earthy flavors can bring any meal to life in seconds.
Although fresh beets will last up to two weeks, once you cook them you’ll reduce their lifespan significantly, so it’s good to have a plan for using them. Whether roasted, mashed or however else you’ve cooked them, beets will last three to five days if you keep them refrigerated.
Cooked beets should never be kept out of the refrigerator for more than a few hours.
So now you know that you can keep your fresh beets fresh for up to two weeks, and that your cooked beets can last up to five days in the refrigerator. Of course, this assumes that you’re storing your beets correctly. Let’s have a look at the best way to store your beets to give them a long life in your kitchen.
How to Store Beets
To get a long life out of your beets, and ensure that no beets go to waste, you need to be storing them correctly.
For fresh beets or cooked beets, the best way to do this is to find some room in the refrigerator for them.
Storing Fresh Beets
In order to make sure your beets keep, there are some good practices you’ll need to follow. Although we all agree that beets look their best with a luscious stem and big leaves blooming from the top, these stems are counterproductive to keeping your beets fresh. Once your beets have been plucked from the ground, or the grocery store shelves, chopping those stems off will encourage your beets to stay fresh.
(These stems will survive for a couple of days in the refrigerator, and I don’t recommend tossing them. Chopped and fried with some olive oil, these stems make a tasty snack!)
Since beets are a root vegetable, most at home buried deep in a dank bed of soil, they’ll retain some of that dirt once they’ve been dug up. You may be tempted to wash this off, but washing your beets is going to speed up the rotting process as any additional moisture on the skin encourages mold. Dust off any excess dirt with a paper towel, and then wash your beets right before you use them.
Once you’ve chopped the stems off your beets and dusted them down, place them in a plastic bag, squeeze out as much air as you can and seal it with a twist. Your beets are as safe as can be, and in the refrigerator they’ll last a couple of weeks without worry.
Storing Cooked Beets
Your cooked beets need to be stored in the fridge – you’ll be encouraging rot if they’re at room temperature for more than a few hours. Once they’ve cooled, transfer them to an airtight container and seal them up. Alternatively, you can use a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap or aluminum foil.
The Root Cellar
If you have more beets than you can shake a stick at then there’s an extreme measure you can take to keep your beets fresh. Common on farms across the country, but less likely to be found in your own home, with a few steps you can simulate a root cellar to keep beets – and other veggies – fresh for months.
For long term beet storage bury the beets, with the greens removed, in a bucket filled with damp sand or sawdust. By creating a carefully balanced environment where airflow is restricted and humidity is controlled, you can slow down the rotting process dramatically. Don’t pack the beets too tight, and cover the bucket with a loose lid.
If it’s beet harvesting time in your garden, this can ensure your beets don’t go to waste. But don’t forget to share them with the neighbors before you go the root cellar route!
Can You Freeze Beets?
If you don’t have a bucket of damp sawdust handy, then freezing your surplus beets might be an easier way to store all those that you can’t eat. Beets freeze well – so long as you cook them first. Freezing and thawing a fresh beet will leave you with a soggy vegetable, so cook your beets before you freeze.
The easiest way to do this is to boil them, as once defrosted you still have the versatile vegetable to work with. Mashed beets can be frozen as well, in an airtight container.
To boil your beets, slice the heads off along with the stems and greens. Dice them up as desired (I like one inch cubes, as you can always pare them down later if you wish). Boil them with plenty of salt until your beet segments are soft, and then drain and cool.
Once your beets have cooled to room temperature, transfer them to plastic bags and remove as much excess air as possible. This will help them stay good in the freezer, as well as allowing you to maximize space! In the freezer, your beets will stay good for up to a year!
How to Tell if Beets are Bad
If you’re coming up on two weeks of storage for your fresh beets, they might be turning bad. To ensure you’re not cooking up a bad beet, or throwing out a good one, you’ll need to know the signs of beets gone bad.
Bad Fresh Beets
If there are any signs of mold or rot on your beets then they need to go. A quick inspection of the tough skin of a beet will be enough for you to discern any gross fluffy mold appearing. This is a sure sign that it’s time your beets got tossed in the trash.
Secondly, beets should be firm to the touch, and an old beet will slowly soften before shrivelling up. Give your beets a squeeze – if the flesh has any give to it, you’ll know your beets are going bad.
The smell test is a third way to identify a bad beet. You know and love that earthy beet flavour and the scent of a fresh beet should be readily recognized by your nostrils. If a beet loses its characteristic earthy smell, it’s time for it to go.
Bad Cooked Beets
Your cooked beets should be good for three to five days, but knowing the signs of bad cooked beets will keep you safe if they start to turn.
Mold is a sure sign that cooked beets have gone bad, so thoroughly inspect the container for signs of mold before you use your cooked beets. Remember that if your beets were turning before you cooked them, cooked beets could go bad in just a couple of days.
Storage time is key for cooked beets. Once cooked, bacteria can thrive in this environment, and it’s not always visible. If your beets have been around for five days or longer, then it might not be worth risking them. Hopefully you have some backup beets in the freezer!