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Beets are one of the most beautiful but least liked vegetables in Robbins Farm Garden — or, for that matter, in the United States as a whole.

They are not, of course, disliked by everyone. If they were, we would not take up valuable space to grow them here. But beets are not a popular, commonly grown vegetable in the U.S. Instead, they're a fringe vegetable.

Beets are so far out of the U.S. mainstream, in fact, that they're not even listed in the Department of Agriculture's tracking service for fruits, grains, and vegetables. That service covers a lot of edible plants, over a hundred. It includes plants like artichokes and ginger root, olives and mustard seed. But it excludes beets. That's a pretty good indicator of just how popular (not) beets are.

(If you find what we just said a bit hard to believe, you can go to the source itself here and check out the full roster.)

Why are beets so unpopular? It's mainly for two reasons:

  1. In the kitchen, they can make a horrible, bloody mess.
  2. At the dinner table, they taste a little too much like dirt.

The mess

Beets bleed when you cut them — sometimes, a lot. They bleed a deep red juice that looks a lot like blood.

It's only in the last 100 years or so that beets have even been called beets. Before that, they were called "blood turnips." One of the top-selling varieties in Europe, where they were developed, was called "Bulls Blood."

Beet juice stains pretty much anything it touches — shirt, pants, countertop, hands. It's one of the most difficult stains to get out. Beets can make you look like you just voted 10 times and an Iraqi election!

People who develop a taste for beets and decide to prepare them at home have to figure out how to deal with this veggie's potential for serious stains. Things people have come up with include wearing rubber gloves when you cut beats open, doing your cutting on a hard, nonporous plastic cutting board or, where possible, doing it over a sink, where any juice that spills can go directly down the drain. Beats can be a lot of work.