So called from the river Baetis in Spain, where it grows naturally; or from the Greek letter β, beta, which when turgid with seed it is said to resemble. Beet. It grows on some of the sea coasts of England and Holland. There are numerous varieties of the beta vulgaris et maritima Lin. Sp. Pi. 322, distinguished rather from their colour than their properties; and a wild sort called by Dioscorides limonium. The parent of all is probably the b. maritima Lin. The mangel wurtzel, with whose wonderful virtues the world was some years since so much amused, is a variety of the b. cicla Lin. From the b. vulgaris M. Achard has attempted to extract sugar, hitherto with little success. By a miserable pun, both have been said to be baits for popularity.

Beets, used as food, are difficult of digestion, and afford but little nourishment. If freely eaten they are laxative and emollient. The red ones give out their colour to spirit of wine; and on expression the colour accompanies their juice.

The juice of both kinds has been considered as a powerful errhine, occasioning a copious discharge, without sneezing; but Dr. Cullen observes, in the trials he made, the juice snuffed up the nose gave no large or durable evacuation. The dried red beet roots yield one-twentieth part their weight of sugar, and the dried white beet roots one-tenth.