< Vegetables



Early in the 19th century, beets became a vegetable of interest to farmers, factors, and plant breeders. The large white cattle beet, The Mangel Wurtzel, from Germany, became in the eyes of cattlemen a hardy source of winter livestock feed. The French sugar beet inspired visions of agricultural wealth to a range of farmers and food processors who sought to serve the publics insatiable hunger for sweet things. And the sugary garden beet, or blood turnip, came to be seen as a wonder of nutrition, as scientists such as Justus Liebig analyzed the chemistry of vegetables in the 1840s. In the 18th century, Anglo-Americans had manifested a taste for the garden beet that was not shared by their English ancestors, if we are to credit the judgment of the acid tongued cultural critic, William Cobbett. Eighteenth-century farmers tended to categorize beets by color—yellow, white, and red (blood), with the last receiving most favor. Nineteenth-century farmers made further discriminations on the basis of root shape, with tap-rooted beets vying with round-rooted (or turnip-rooted) beets for attention. Early in the 19th century agriculturalists believed that beets incorporated much of their matter from the surrounding soil, so controversies erupted about how to manure beet gardens, and whether those sorts of beets whose bulbs swelled partially above ground derived as much aliment as those whose bulbs formed below the soil surface.

Beet seed had to soaked in warm to hot water for a day to aid the break down of the firm skin. Drills were set about 14 inches apart and often intercropped with radish seed. In most parts of the country planting took place after the last threat of frost had passed. Beets required a deeply dug, loose soil to prevent clods from causing roots to fork or deform. They tended to grow readily, even in changeable weather, and had markedly fewer insect pests than other root vegetables. They did require weeding, because they did not fare well when other plants competed for the soil’s nutrition. Market gardeners tended to grow beets as much for greens as for roots in the first half of the 19th-century, so culled rows, taking out the leafiest plants as soon as they gained saleable size. Farmers with livestock had other uses for the greens, stripping all except those growing on the crown every fifteen days for feed. Oxen, cows and sheep devoured them greedily, and fattened readily upon them. Poultry ate them readily, when chopped fine and mixed with grain. whose roots formed partially out of ground had the advantage of being easily harvested, so gained the nickname, ‘lazy man’s beet.’ Long, dark red beets were generally reckoned better for pickling than any other sort. Drills were set about 14 inches apart and often intercropped with radish seed. In most parts of the country planting took place after the last threat of frost had passed. Fields with manuring could withstand two crops in a growing year,

Extra Early Bassan    History

an early, sweet, tender and juicy, flesh white and rose; grows to a good size; when sown late, it keeps well in winter.

Early Blood Turnip    History

turnip-shaped, smooth, tender and good, about ten days after Bassano.

Dewing’s Turnip    History

a good red, but not dark, Turnip Beet, about a week earlier than Blood Turnip; smooth skin and small top, and growing much above ground. Flesh tender and delicate, but not very solid; good for spring and summer use.

Crapaudine, or Bark    History

an excellent French sort, remarkable for its shagreened and somewhat scaly bark covering its skin; flesh intense red, very sweet, fine flavor, tender and delicate.

Egyptian Blood Turnip    History

a new candidate for favor, which we (Vick’s Illustrated, 1871) have tried two seasons; extremely variable and unreliable; though it boasts a fine flavor; earliest in cultivation

Dark Black Red Erfurt, Finest Long    History

very tender, long and very dark blood beet.

Round Early Red Blood    History

a fine French, tender variety of Turnip Beet

Brazilian Variegated    History

beautiful for garnishing and flower garden decoration, the stems and veins being richly colored with crimson, yellow, and white.

Henderson’s Pine Apple    History

compact, short-topped variety; roots medium sized and of a deep crimson.

Early Yellow Turnip    History

a variety of the Blood Turnip Beet, different mainly in color.

Long Blood Red    History

a popular winter sort; long, smooth, blood red; sweet and tender.

Imperial Sugar    History

the sweetest Sugar Beet; said to contain 17% of sugar.

Bastian’s Early Blood Turnip Beet    History

new variety (as of 1880); earlier than Bassano with a beautiful blood-red color when boiled. Among market gardeners, it is generally preferred to the Red Egyptian.

Beet-roots (American Domestic Cookery 1823)    History

Make a very pleasant addition to winter salad; of which they may agreeably form a full halk, instead of being only used to ornament it. This root is cooling, and very wholesome.

It is extremely good, boiled and sliced with a small quantity of onion; or stewed with whole onions, large or small as follows. Boil the beet tender with the skin on; slice it into a stew-pan with a little broth, and a spoonful of vinegar; simmer till the gravy is tinged with the colour; then put it into a small dish; and make a round of the button-onions, first boiled till tender; take off the skin just before serving, and mind they are quite hot, and clear.

Or roast three large onions, and peel off the outer skins till they look clear; and serve the beet-root stewed round them.

Beets (Every Lady’s Book 1854)    History

Break off the leaves, but do not cut beets, as that spoils both the flavor and appearance, wash them and boil them till tender, then take them out into a basin of cold water and rub all the outside skin off with the hands, then slice th em thin in a dish and just cover them with cold vinegar, and sprinkle with pepper and salt, or quarter t hem, and lay them for a day or two in cold vinegar, as they are then fit for use. The Tops of young beets are dressed as asparagus.

To Pickle Beets 1 (Frugal Housewife 1803)    History

Put into a gallon of cold vinegar as many beets as the vinegar will hold, and put thereto a half an ounce of whole pepper, half an ounce of allspice, a little ginger, if you like it, and one head of garlic. Note: Boil the beets in clear water, with their dirt on as they are taken out of the earth, then take them out and peal them, and when the vinegar is cold put them in, and in two days they will be fit for use. The spice must be boiled in the vinegar.

Pickled Beets 2 (New England Farmer 1824)    History

Parboil some of the finest red beet roots in water; then cut them into a sauce-pan with some sliced horse-raddish, onions, shallots leaves, pounded ginger, beaten mace, white pepper, cloves, all-spice, and salt; and boil the whole in sufficient vinegar to cover it for at least a quarter of an hour. Strain the liquor from the ingredients, put the slices into a jar, pour the strained liquor over them, and if higher colour be wanted, add a little powdered cochineal when the pickled is quite cold, and keep it closely covered with bladder or leather. A little oil may be poured o the top of this pickle which will assist the better to preserve it without prejudice to the beet root, which is common served up in oil, its own liquor, and small quantity of powdered loaf sugar poured over it. Some also add mustard, but this is by no means necessary, and certainly does not improve the colour of this fine pickle.

Pickled Beets 3 (United States Cook Book 1859)    History

Boil your beet in water, until you can remove the outer skin, and they have become soft; then slice them and put them into an earthen pot, add some salt, whole pepper, coriander and a couple of bayleaves; pour over as much white-wine-vinegar, as will cover them, shake them gently a coupl of times, and when they have got quite cold (best not until after two days) send them to the table either, as a salad, or an accompaniment to beef.

Red Beet Roots (Virginia House Wife, 1837)    History

Are not so much used as they deserve to be; they are dressed in the same way as parsnips, only neither scraped nor cut till after they are boiled; they will take from an hour and a half to three hours in boiling, according to their size; to be sent to the table with salt fish, boiled beef, &c. When y oung, small and juicy, it is a very good variety, an excellent garnish, and easily converted into a very cheap and pleasant pckle.

Dressed Beets (American Matron 1851)    History

Boil two good-sized beets tender; when cold and peeled, cut in slanting direction so as to make oval pieces. Cut into small dice two middling-sized onions; put them into a pan with two ounces of butter; fry white, stirring continually with a spoon; add a spoonful of flour, and enough milk to make a thickish sauce, adding three salt-spoonfuls of salt, four of sugar, one of pepper, a spoonful of good vinegar, and boil together for a few minutes. Put in the beet slices to simmer for about twenty minutes. Have ready some mashed potatoes, with which make a neat border round your dish one inch high. Put in the beets and sauce, and serve hot. If you have a little broth, use it instead of milk.

Baked Beets (National Cook Book 1856)    History

Wash your beets, put them in a pan, and set t hem in a moderate oven where they will bake slowly. When they are very soft take them out, remove the skins, slice them, and dress them with butter, pepper and salt, or vinegar if preferred.

French Cold Beet-Root (Practical Housekeeper 1857)    History

Take your cold [boiled] beet-root—chop it very small and put it in a saucepan to heat, with a little cream; immediately before serving, put in a spoonful of vinegar and a little brown sugar; serve hot.