Sugar beet is an heirloom vegetable that is cultivated primarily for its high sucrose content, as the giant roots are usually processed into sugar. The history of beet cultivation dates back to ancient times, as the plants were cultivated by the Greeks and the Romans. However, it was only during the 1800s that sugar beets were cultivated as a commercial crop.
In 1747, a German scientist named Andreas Marggraf discovered that sucrose similar to that of sugar canes could be extracted from sugar beets. A few decades later, Franz Carl Achard continued the work of his teacher and opened a beet processing factory in Poland in 1802 while developing new varieties with higher sugar content. Napoleon Bonaparte played a significant role in the history of sugar beet cultivation and the sugar industry overall. During the Napoleonic wars of 1803-1815, France was facing a shortage of sugar, so the government offered incentives to farmers to grow sugar beets and to establish research institutes. By the 1830s, France was producing more sugar from beets than it was importing from sugar cane. This led to the popularization of sugar beets in Europe and by the mid-1800s, it had become an important crop in many countries.
In the garden, sugar beets are quite easy to grow and they are adaptable to a wide range of soil, from coarse-textured sandy soil to high organic matter or high clay content. Maturing in about 90 days, the size of sugar beets can vary depending on growing conditions, but the roots can measure a few inches up to over a foot long, weighing a few ounces to 2-3 pounds for the bigger specimens. The thick skin of sugar beets is light brown, and the flesh is white or slightly yellow, containing an impressive 13 to 22 percent sucrose. The green tops can reach 1 to 1.5 meters tall. They are edible as well and can be cooked like spinach or used in salads. Sugar beets are very sturdy plants that produce a lot of food, both from below and above ground. Be aware that deer love this plant, as do livestock. Increase your food resiliency by making your own sugar and perfect your recipe over time!
Beets are an essential cool weather root crop. They are highly valued for their nutritional content and versatility, as both the roots and leaves can be prepared in a variety of ways. Another reason this vegetable is prized is its ability to produce multiple harvests per season.
Seeds should be planted outdoors 3-5 weeks before the last frost date. Once soil can be worked and the temperature is at least 10°C, it’s safe to start seeds outside. Seeds can be soaked overnight before planting. This will speed up the germination process.
Soil should be well drained and kept moist. Plant seeds 2 cm deep and 5-8 cm apart. When greens reach 5-8 cm in height, thin them to 8 cm apart. These young plants plucked from the garden shouldn’t be wasted. They can be eaten right away, tender and delicious! Allow enough space between rows, about 60 cm.
Water slowly and deeply, allowing the roots to soak up and retain moisture, about 2 cm of water/week is required. Beets will respond well to being mulched after they are established. A good deal of sun is important for the plant to reach maturity in a short time.
Time to harvest ranges from 45-60 days, depending on the variety. If left in the earth for too long, beets can become woody and tough. So don’t wait, harvest when roots are exposed above the soil and about 5-8 cm in diameter. Mind the greens as well, they will become bitter when they reach a height over 15 cm. When harvesting, grab the spot where the greens meet the root firmly. Wiggle it little by little and pull straight up until it is freed from the soil.
Beets thrive both as a spring and fall crop. Take advantage of its quick growing season and, for good health, grow bundles of beets every year!
- Beets were first domesticated in ancient Egypt, primarily for their greens. By the Roman era, it was thought that they were cultivated for their roots as well.
- Beets are a favorite cool-weather crop and are extremely easy to grow in a wide variety of soils.
- Beet seeds will remain viable for 4 years if stored in a cool, dark place, ideally between 4 and 10⁰C. After that, the germination rate may start to go down.
OUR SEED GUARANTEE
You know that a lush, fruitful garden needs good soil, frequent watering, and sunlight to grow, but it’s the seeds that really make the harvest.
Picked and bagged for 2023 the vast majority of our seeds have germination rates of over 85%. The seeds are all-natural, non-GMO, non-hybrid, untreated, and open-pollinated for seed saving.
We have put a lot of thoughts into the design and packaging of our seed packets. Our seeds are all carefully packed in food grade kraft paper/aluminium zipper lock bags, and then are shipped in eco-friendly padded mailers.
We heat-seal each of our seed packet for even more protection from moisture, odour and light, allowing you to store your seeds for up to 3x longer than paper or plastic. Plant them all, germinate some indoors, save some for next season - it’s up to you!