Sugar Beet Beta Vulgaris Seeds Tian Cai
Best grown in moist, fertile, organically rich, light to sandy, well-drained soils in full sun. Tolerates light shade. For many of the plants in this species, seeds (dried "seed clusters", each with 3 or 4 seeds) are typically sown in the ground about 30 days prior to the last spring frost date in Zones 3-7 for harvest in summer and fall or in the alternative, are sown in summer in Zones 8-10 for harvest over winter. Several seedlings will emerge from each seed cluster. Seedlings should be thinned to a spread appropriate for the specific type of plant being grown. Successive plantings may be made at monthly intervals during the growing season (seed planted in the heat of summer may not germinate however). For proper growth, species plants generally need regular and consistent moisture, with additional water provided during hot and dry summer periods.
For specific growing instructions on growing plants within each Cultivar Group of this species, consult the specific recommendations applicable to the Group of the plant being grown.
Beta vulgaris, commonly known as beet, is an herbaceous biennial (infrequently perennial) which is typically grown today as an annual. The ancestor plant for this species is the wild sea beet (Beta vulgaris subsp. maritime) which was probably native to coastal parts of the Mediterranean, but which eventually spread over time to the Atlantic Coast of Europe, the Near East and India. Sea beet can still be found as a wild plant along the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts. In general, beets of this species have been valued since ancient times for their edible leaves and midribs. Ancient Greeks and Romans cultivated beets as potherbs. Cultivation of beet roots as food first gained momentum in the 16th century. From the 16th century onward, Europeans began to consume the roots primarily as a vegetable. During the 1800’s, intense artificial selection in Europe produced diverse beet cultivars used today for a variety of different purposes.
Beet cultivars today are classified into four different Groups (a Group being an assemblage of named cultivars with similar characteristics). Groups grown for their thickened tuberous roots (beets) are:
1. Beta vulgaris (Garden Beet or Beetroot Group) is the red root vegetable sold in grocery stores around the world as garden beets. This Group is best associated with the word “beet”.
2. Beta vulgaris (Sugar Beet Group) is the plant which is commercially grown for sugar production (roots contain high concentrations of sucrose). Roots were first found to contain sugar in 1747. This beet was developed in Germany in the late 18th century. About 20-25% of the sugar produced in the world today comes from sugar beets.
3. Beta vulgaris (Fodderbeet Group or Mangelwurzel) is grown for its tubers which are harvested for use as livestock fodder. It was developed in the 18th century.
Group grown for their leaves rather than tuberous roots:
4. Beta vulgaris (Leaf Beet Group) is a leaf vegetable (e.g. chard or spinach beet) which is grown for harvest of its edible leaves and midribs. Leaf beets have been cultivated from ancient times to present. Group plants lack swollen tubers/roots. Spinach beet is similar in taste to spinach (Spinacia).
In general, genus plants typically grow to 2-3’ tall (to 4-6’ tall when in flower in the second year). Ovate to wedge-shaped, long-petioled, basal leaves (to 6” long) appear in rosettes with smaller, alternate, second-year stem leaves. Deep purple-red (but sometimes golden yellow or red/white striped) roots are usually swollen, except in the case of the leafy vegetable plants found in the Leaf Beet Group. Flowers (usually greenish and non-showy, but sometimes with red or purple tinges) bloom in dense spikes only in the second year, which means the flowers are typically not seen when plants are grown and harvested for their beets and/or leaves as one-year annuals.
Genus name comes from the Latin name for beet.
Specific epithet comes from Latin meaning common.
No serious insect or disease problems. Beets may suffer from fungal leaf spots, downy mildew, powdery mildew and root rots. Watch for leaf miners, flea beetles, leafhoppers, aphids and caterpillars.
Edible garden vegetable for harvest of underground beets and/or leaves and/or foliage ornamental (Leaf Beet and Garden Beet Groups). Commercial source of sucrose for production of sugar (Sugar Beet Group). Fodder for livestock (Fodder Group cultivars).
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