Below is a list of several commonly
available varieties of beets. Generally 55
to 65 days from germination to harvest of
the root. All varieties can be harvested
earlier for use as greens.
Beet / Burpee's Golden, heirloom
/ Formanova, heirloom (elongated roots)
Dark Red Medium Top, heirloom
Perfected Detroit, 1934 AAS winner
- Red Ace
Queen, 1957 AAS winner
The beet root (Beta vulgaris) is a plant in
the amaranth family. It is best known in its
numerous cultivated varieties, the most well
known of which is probably the red root
vegetable known as the garden beet. However,
other cultivated varieties include the leaf
vegetables chard and spinach beet, as well
as the root vegetables sugar beet, which is
important in the production of table sugar,
and mangelwurzel, which is a fodder crop.
Three subspecies are typically recognized.
All cultivated varieties fall into the
subspecies Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris,
while Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima,
commonly known as the sea beet, is the wild
ancestor of these and is found throughout
the Mediterranean, the Atlantic coast of
Europe, the Near East, and India. A second
wild subspecies, Beta vulgaris subsp.
adanensis, occurs from Greece to Syria.
The beet has a long history of cultivation
stretching back to the second millennium BC.
The plant was probably domesticated
somewhere along the Mediterranean, whence it
was later spread to Babylonia by the 8th
century BC and as far east as China by 850
AD. Available evidence, such as that
provided by Aristotle and Theophrastus
suggests that the leafy varieties of the
beet were grown primarily for most of its
history, though these lost much of their
popularity much later following the
introduction of spinach. The beet became
highly commercially important in 19th
century Europe following the development of
the sugar beet in Germany and the discovery
that sucrose could be extracted from them,
providing an alternative to tropical sugar
cane. It remains a widely cultivated
commercial crop for producing table sugar.
Beta vulgaris is a herbaceous biennial or
rarely perennial plant with leafy stems
growing to 1-2 m tall. The leaves are
heart-shaped, 5-20 cm long on wild plants
(often much larger in cultivated plants).
The flowers are produced in dense spikes,
each flower very small, 3-5 mm diameter,
green or tinged reddish, with five petals;
they are wind-pollinated. The fruit is a
cluster of hard nutlets.