Saturday, January 12, 2008

ARK of Taste: Beet

I know I have been neglegtful of my blog! Sorry... We have been working on the website, and hope to have our variety list up this weekend. Here is anouther variety we hope to grow next year. We have yet to find a seed source for this yet, so fingers crossed! But even if we cannot get this we have 4 beet varieties on the list for this year, three heirlooms (Golden, bulls blood, chiogga) and one hybrid. We were so pleased with how well root crops grew last year, this year we want to do a ton more! (Plus, I suddednly discovered I like them!)

Early Blood Turnip-rooted Beet (Beta vulgaris)
This is one of the oldest surviving varieties of table beet, having been introduced in America by 1820. One of the most popular beets of the 1800s in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, it is an all-purpose variety, round root 4” - 4 ½” in diameter with 48 to 68 days to maturity from seed.
The beet has very dark, violet-red flesh with lighter zones. The leaves are dark with bright red petioles. The dark red flesh remains flavorful, tender and juicy even when the beets attain large size. It has a slight clove-like aroma and a wonderful sweetness, light like a carrot but without the intense sweetness of a carrot. Raw it has an apple-like slightly astringent flavor. Its complex taste starts with a cinnamon flavor and a hint of heat followed by a tartness and a rich earthy finish. Its flavor has also been described as sour and tangy. The beet is good both boiled and baked and the leaves are an excellent cooked green.
It is a superb winter storage variety, keeping well in root cellar storage for 8 months or more. Variable rate of maturity may make this beet less desirable for commercial harvest (and this may explain its disappearance from seed catalogs in the latter 20th century), however this characteristic is a plus for the small farmer and home gardener. It is a highly endangered variety.

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