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Useful Tropical Plants

Beta vulgaris

L.

Amaranthaceae

+ Synonyms

Beta alba DC.

Beta altissima Steud.

Beta atriplicifolia Rouy

Beta bengalensis Roxb.

Beta brasiliensis Voss

Beta carnulosa Gren.

Beta cicla (L.) L.

Beta cicla (L.) Pers.

Beta crispa Tratt.

Beta decumbens Moench

Beta esculenta Salisb.

Beta foliosa Ehrenb. ex Steud.

Beta hortensis Mill.

Beta hybrida Andrz.

Beta incarnata Steud.

Beta lutea Steud.

Beta marina Crantz

Beta maritima L.

Beta noeana Bunge ex Boiss.

Beta orientalis Roth

Beta orientalis L.

Beta purpurea Steud.

Beta rapa Dumort.

Beta rapacea Hegetschw.

Beta rosea Steud.

Beta sativa Bernh.

Beta stricta K.Koch

Beta sulcata Gasp.

Beta triflora Salisb.

Common Name: Beet

Beta vulgaris
Beetroots
Photograph by: Miansari66
Public domain
Beta vulgaris Beta vulgaris Beta vulgaris Beta vulgaris Beta vulgaris Beta vulgaris Beta vulgaris

General Information

Beta vulgaris is an erect, biennial plant producing a rosette of leaves from a swollen rootstock. It grows around 60cm tall, with a flowering stem that can be 150cm or more tall.
A cultivated crop that is widely grown, especially in the temperate zone, this species provides the well-known root vegetable 'Beetroot', plus the edible leaves of 'Spinach Beet' and 'Ruby Chard'. The plants are sometimes cultivated in tropical areas and some selected forms with colourful leaves are grown as ornamentals[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].

Known Hazards

None known

Botanical References

200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.

Range

A cultivated form of Beta vulgaris maritima that is grown for its edible leaves and roots.

Habitat

Not known in a truly wild situation.

Properties

Edibility Rating *  *  *  *
Medicinal Rating *  *  *
HabitBiennial
Height0.90 m
PollinatorsWind, Thrips
Self-fertileNo
Cultivation StatusCultivated, Ornamental

Cultivation Details

Beta vulgaris is originally a native of the warm temperate zone, though it has spread further north to the cold temperate zone. In the tropics it needs to be grown at higher elevations if a commercial crop is to be obtained - the leaf beets need to be above 500 metres, whilst the root beets need to be above 1,000 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 15 - 25°c, but can tolerate 4 - 35°c[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. When dormant, the plant can survive temperatures down to about -6°c, but young growth can be severely damaged at 0°c[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 600 - 1,500mm, but tolerates 500 - 2,500mm[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].The plant is reported to tolerate an annual precipitation of 230 - 3150mm, an average annual temperature range of 5.0 to 26.6°C
A very easily grown plant, it succeeds in sun or light shade in moist soils but prefers a rich well-drained light neutral to alkaline soil[
33
Title
Rare Vegetables for Garden and Table.
Publication
 
Author
Organ. J.
Publisher
Faber
Year
1960
ISBN
-
Description
Unusual vegetables that can be grown outdoors in Britain. A good guide.
,
37
Title
The Gardener's Assistant.
Publication
 
Author
Thompson. B.
Publisher
Blackie and Son.
Year
1878
ISBN
-
Description
Excellent general but extensive guide to gardening practices in the 19th century. A very good section on fruits and vegetables with many little known species.
]. Beets grow well in a variety of soils, growing best in a deep, friable well-drained soil abundant with organic matter, but doing poorly on clay. They prefer an open position and a light well-drained soil[
52
Title
Salads all the Year Round.
Publication
 
Author
Larkcom. J.
Publisher
Hamlyn
Year
1980
ISBN
 
Description
A good and comprehensive guide to temperate salad plants, with full organic details of cultivation.
]. The optimum pH is 6.0 - 6.8, but the plant can tolerate 5 - 8.3. Some salinity may be tolerated after the seedling stage. Beets are notable for their tolerance to manganese toxicity[
269
Title
Handbook of Energy Crops
Publication
 
Author
Duke. J.
Publisher
-
Year
1983
ISBN
-
Description
Published only on the Internet, excellent information on a wide range of both temperate and tropical plants.
]. Plants are tolerant of saline soils and respond positively if salt is added to non-saline soils at a rate of about 30g per square metre[
264
Title
Vegetables
Publication
 
Author
Phillips. R. & Rix. M.
Publisher
Macmillan Reference Books, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0 333 62640 0
Description
Excellent and easily read book with good information and an excellent collection of photos of vegetables from around the world, including many unusual species.
].
As currently recognized (2016), this species includes four different cultivated groups, two of which are grown in the tropics:-
Garden Beet Group. Probably better known as the beetroot, it is grown mainly for its edible root, though the leaves can also be eaten. There are two basic forms, those with rounded roots and those with elongated roots with many named varieties of each form. The roots can be available all year round from successional sowings. A fast-growing plant, some cultivars can produce a root ready for harvesting within 7 weeks from sowing the seed[
264
Title
Vegetables
Publication
 
Author
Phillips. R. & Rix. M.
Publisher
Macmillan Reference Books, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0 333 62640 0
Description
Excellent and easily read book with good information and an excellent collection of photos of vegetables from around the world, including many unusual species.
]. Very much a plant of the temperate zone, though it is also grown commercially at elevations above 1,000 metres in the tropics.
Leaf Beet Group. This includes spinach beet with its edible leaves that atr used like spinach. It also includes the various forms of chard which, in addition to their edible leaves, also have enlarged leaf stalks that can be eaten. Neither form produce an edible root.
Spinach beet and chard do not make very good commercial crops since the leaves quickly droop after being harvested and so do not stand the journey to market. If the leaves are harvested regularly, selecting those on the outside of the rosette, then it is possible to harvest them for up to two years. The leaves can also be made available all year round by successional sowings[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].
With good cultivation techniques beetroot in the tropics may yield 15 - 25 tonnes of roots per hectare. Leaf beet may yield up to 100 tonnes per hectare[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].
Plants need a definite cold season if they are to flower and produce seed, therefore plants grown in the tropics generally do not produce seed.
Most beetroot seed is actually a cluster of several seeds, though monogerm varieties have been produced that only have one seed - these monogerm varieties are less likely to require thinning once they have germinated[
264
Title
Vegetables
Publication
 
Author
Phillips. R. & Rix. M.
Publisher
Macmillan Reference Books, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0 333 62640 0
Description
Excellent and easily read book with good information and an excellent collection of photos of vegetables from around the world, including many unusual species.
].
A good companion for dwarf beans, onions and kohl rabi[
18
Title
Companion Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Philbrick H. and Gregg R. B.
Publisher
Watkins
Year
1979
ISBN
-
Description
Details of beneficial and antagonistic relationships between neighbouring plants.
], though the growth of spinach beet is inhibited by runner beans, charlock and field mustard[
18
Title
Companion Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Philbrick H. and Gregg R. B.
Publisher
Watkins
Year
1979
ISBN
-
Description
Details of beneficial and antagonistic relationships between neighbouring plants.
].

Edible Uses

Leaves - raw or cooked like spinach[
2
Title
Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Publication
 
Author
Hedrick. U. P.
Publisher
Dover Publications
Year
1972
ISBN
0-486-20459-6
Description
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
,
16
Title
New Vegetable Growers Handbook.
Publication
 
Author
Simons.
Publisher
Penguin
Year
1977
ISBN
0-14-046-050-0
Description
A good guide to growing vegetables in temperate areas, not entirely organic.
,
27
Title
The Vegetable Garden.
Publication
 
Author
Vilmorin. A.
Publisher
Ten Speed Press
Year
 
ISBN
0-89815-041-8
Description
A reprint of a nineteenth century classic, giving details of vegetable varieties. Not really that informative though.
,
33
Title
Rare Vegetables for Garden and Table.
Publication
 
Author
Organ. J.
Publisher
Faber
Year
1960
ISBN
-
Description
Unusual vegetables that can be grown outdoors in Britain. A good guide.
]. A very good spinach substitute, the leaves are large and easily harvested, yields are high[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
]. Some people dislike eating the raw leaves since they can leave an unpleasant taste in the mouth[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].

Leaf stems - cooked. The larger stems of some varieties (the chards) retain their crispness well, especially if steamed. They have a delicious flavour, and are considered to be a gourmet vegetable[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].

Root - raw or cooked[
2
Title
Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Publication
 
Author
Hedrick. U. P.
Publisher
Dover Publications
Year
1972
ISBN
0-486-20459-6
Description
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
,
16
Title
New Vegetable Growers Handbook.
Publication
 
Author
Simons.
Publisher
Penguin
Year
1977
ISBN
0-14-046-050-0
Description
A good guide to growing vegetables in temperate areas, not entirely organic.
,
27
Title
The Vegetable Garden.
Publication
 
Author
Vilmorin. A.
Publisher
Ten Speed Press
Year
 
ISBN
0-89815-041-8
Description
A reprint of a nineteenth century classic, giving details of vegetable varieties. Not really that informative though.
,
132
Title
Fruits of the Earth.
Publication
 
Author
Bianchini. F., Corbetta. F. and Pistoia. M.
Publisher
 
Year
 
ISBN
 
Description
Lovely pictures, a very readable book.
]. Well-grown roots are sweet and tender, especially when young, and can be grated and used in salads. Beetroots are traditionally boiled until tender then pickled in vinegar and used in salads. The roots can also be cooked and used as a vegetable, they are sweet and delicious when baked[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
]. The root contains up to 8% sugar[
143
Title
Lilies - Their Culture and Management.
Publication
 
Author
Woodcock. and Coutts.
Publisher
Country Life
Year
1935
ISBN
-
Description
A classic, but dated. Deals with the genus Lilium.
]. The root is tasteless when grown on very wet soils and dry when grown on clay soils[
132
Title
Fruits of the Earth.
Publication
 
Author
Bianchini. F., Corbetta. F. and Pistoia. M.
Publisher
 
Year
 
ISBN
 
Description
Lovely pictures, a very readable book.
]. Immature roots can be harvested for immediate use, these are usually much more tender than the older roots[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
]. Mature roots will store for up to 6 months in a cool, frost-free place[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].

Flowering stem - cooked. A broccoli substitute[
16
Title
New Vegetable Growers Handbook.
Publication
 
Author
Simons.
Publisher
Penguin
Year
1977
ISBN
0-14-046-050-0
Description
A good guide to growing vegetables in temperate areas, not entirely organic.
].

Betanins, obtained from the red roots of beetroot, are used industrially as red food colourants, e.g. to improve the colour of tomato paste, sauces, desserts, jams and jellies, ice cream, sweets and breakfast cereals[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].

Medicinal

Although little used in modern herbalism, the plant has a long history of folk use, especially in the treatment of tumours[
269
Title
Handbook of Energy Crops
Publication
 
Author
Duke. J.
Publisher
-
Year
1983
ISBN
-
Description
Published only on the Internet, excellent information on a wide range of both temperate and tropical plants.
]. Beet juice was formerly recommended as a remedy for anaemia and yellow jaundice, and was put into the nostrils to purge the head, used as ear drops to clear ringing ears, and as a mouthwash to alleviate toothache[
269
Title
Handbook of Energy Crops
Publication
 
Author
Duke. J.
Publisher
-
Year
1983
ISBN
-
Description
Published only on the Internet, excellent information on a wide range of both temperate and tropical plants.
].

The root is carminative, emmenagogue, haemostatic, stomachic and is used as a tonic for women[
218
Title
Medicinal Plants of China
Publication
 
Author
Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S.
Publisher
Reference Publications, Inc.
Year
1985
ISBN
0-917256-20-4
Description
Details of over 1,200 medicinal plants of China and brief details of their uses. Often includes an analysis, or at least a list of constituents. Heavy going if you are not into the subject.
]. The root can be used as part of the diet, or the juice can be extracted and used as a health-promoting drink[
254
Title
The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants
Publication
 
Author
Chevallier. A.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley. London
Year
1996
ISBN
9-780751-303148
Description
An excellent guide to over 500 of the more well known medicinal herbs from around the world.
]. At least one litre of the juice from red-rooted forms must be taken each day in order to stimulate the immune system[
254
Title
The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants
Publication
 
Author
Chevallier. A.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley. London
Year
1996
ISBN
9-780751-303148
Description
An excellent guide to over 500 of the more well known medicinal herbs from around the world.
]. The juice is prescribed by herbalists as part of a cancer-treatment regime[
254
Title
The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants
Publication
 
Author
Chevallier. A.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley. London
Year
1996
ISBN
9-780751-303148
Description
An excellent guide to over 500 of the more well known medicinal herbs from around the world.
].
The root of white-rooted forms contain betaine which has been shown to promote the regeneration of liver cells and the metabolism of fat cells[
254
Title
The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants
Publication
 
Author
Chevallier. A.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley. London
Year
1996
ISBN
9-780751-303148
Description
An excellent guide to over 500 of the more well known medicinal herbs from around the world.
,
269
Title
Handbook of Energy Crops
Publication
 
Author
Duke. J.
Publisher
-
Year
1983
ISBN
-
Description
Published only on the Internet, excellent information on a wide range of both temperate and tropical plants.
].
The root of red-rooted forms contains betanin - an anthocyanin similar to those found in red wine. It has been shown to be partly responsible for red beet's immune-enhancing effect[
254
Title
The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants
Publication
 
Author
Chevallier. A.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley. London
Year
1996
ISBN
9-780751-303148
Description
An excellent guide to over 500 of the more well known medicinal herbs from around the world.
].

A decoction prepared from the seed has been used as a remedy for tumours of the intestines. The seed, boiled in water, is said to cure genital tumours[
269
Title
Handbook of Energy Crops
Publication
 
Author
Duke. J.
Publisher
-
Year
1983
ISBN
-
Description
Published only on the Internet, excellent information on a wide range of both temperate and tropical plants.
].

The juice or other parts of the plant is said to help in the treatment of tumours, leukaemia and other forms of cancer such as cancer of the breast, oesophagus, glands, head, intestines, leg, lip, lung, prostate, rectum, spleen, stomach, and uterus[
269
Title
Handbook of Energy Crops
Publication
 
Author
Duke. J.
Publisher
-
Year
1983
ISBN
-
Description
Published only on the Internet, excellent information on a wide range of both temperate and tropical plants.
].
The juice has been applied topically to treat ulcers[
269
Title
Handbook of Energy Crops
Publication
 
Author
Duke. J.
Publisher
-
Year
1983
ISBN
-
Description
Published only on the Internet, excellent information on a wide range of both temperate and tropical plants.
].
Beet juice in vinegar is said to rid the scalp of dandruff, and has been recommended to prevent falling hair[
269
Title
Handbook of Energy Crops
Publication
 
Author
Duke. J.
Publisher
-
Year
1983
ISBN
-
Description
Published only on the Internet, excellent information on a wide range of both temperate and tropical plants.
].

A decoction is used as a purgative by those who suffer from haemorrhoids in South Africa[
269
Title
Handbook of Energy Crops
Publication
 
Author
Duke. J.
Publisher
-
Year
1983
ISBN
-
Description
Published only on the Internet, excellent information on a wide range of both temperate and tropical plants.
].

Other Uses

None known

Propagation

Seed - sow in situ.

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