According to shape of the root one may divide beets into two classes, viz., Long Rooted and Globular. If color is made the basis of classification you have red, white and yellow kinds.
Extra Early Blood Turnip, Eclipse and Extra Early Egyptian are good varieties to grow for market. The first named is probably the best; the last named has the disadvantage of becoming stringy if it matures during a long, dry spell, or if allowed to stand too long.
The deep red varieties are preferred, and those that are turnip shaped sell better than the long.
The soil best adapted to the beet is a deep, light, well-enriched, sandy loam. When grown on thin, gravelly soil, the roots are generally tough and fibrous; and when cultivated in cold, wet, clayey localities, they are often coarse, watery, and insipid, worthless for the table, and comparatively of little value for agricultural purposes.
A well-digested compost, formed of barnyard manure, loam and salt, makes the best fertilizer. Where this is not to be obtained, guano, superphosphate of lime, or bone-dust, may be employed advantageously as a substitute. Wood-ashes, raked or harrowed in just previous to sowing the seed, make an excellent surface-dressing, as they not only prevent the depredations of insects, but give strength and vigor to the young plants. The application of coarse, undigested, strawy manure, tends to the production of forked and misshapen roots, and should be avoided.
To raise seed, select smooth and well-developed roots having the form, size, and color by which the pure variety is distinguished; and, in April, transplant them eighteen inches or two feet apart, sinking the crowns to a level with the surface of the ground.
As the stalks increase in height, tie them to stakes for support. The plants will blossom in June and July, and the seeds will ripen in August.
In harvesting, cut off the plants near the ground, and spread them in a light and airy situation till they are sufficiently dried for threshing, or stripping off the seeds; after which the seeds should be exposed, to evaporate any remaining moisture.
An ounce of seed will sow from one hundred to one hundred and fifty feet of drill, according to the size of the variety; and about four pounds will be required for one acre.
“The roots are the parts generally used, and are boiled, stewed, and also eaten cold, sliced in vinegar and oil. They enter into mixed salads, and are much used for garnishing; and, for all these purposes, the deeper colored they are, the more they are appreciated. Some, however, it ought to be noticed, prefer them of a bright-red color; but all must be of fine quality in fibre, solid, and of uniform color. The roots are also eaten cut into thin slices, and baked in an oven. Dried, roasted, and ground, they are sometimes mixed with coffee, and are also much employed as a pickle. Mixed with dough, they make a wholesome bread; but, for this purpose, the white or yellow rooted sorts are preferred. The roots of all the varieties are better baked than boiled.”—M’Int.
The young plants make an excellent substitute for spinach; and the leaves of some of the kinds, boiled when nearly full grown, and served as greens, are tender and well-flavored.
Some of the larger varieties are remarkably productive, and are extensively cultivated for agricultural purposes. From a single acre of land in good condition, thirty or forty tons are frequently harvested; and exceptional crops are recorded of fifty, and even sixty tons. In France, the White Sugar-beet is largely employed for the manufacture of sugar,—the[Pg 6] amount produced during one year being estimated to exceed that annually made from the sugar-cane in the State of Louisiana.
For sheep, dairy-stock, and the fattening of cattle, experience has proved the beet to be at once healthful, nutritious, and economical.
Varieties.—The varieties are quite numerous, and vary to a considerable extent in size, form, color, and quality. They are obtained by crossing, or by the intermixture of one kind with another. This often occurs naturally when two or more varieties are allowed to run to seed in close proximity, but is sometimes performed artificially by transferring the pollen from the flower of a particular variety to the stigma of the flower of another.
Roots, from the first sowings, will be ready for use early in July; from which time, until October, the table may be supplied directly from the garden. They should be drawn as fast as they attain a size fit for use; which will allow more time and space for the development of those remaining.
For winter use, the roots must be taken up before the occurrence of heavy frosts, as severe cold not only greatly impairs their quality, but causes them to decay at the crown. Remove the leaves, being careful not to cut or bruise the crown; spread the roots in the sun a few hours to dry; pack them in sand or earth slightly moist; and place in the cellar, out of reach of frost, for the winter.
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