Beet, or Beta, L. a plant of which there are four species, viz.
2. The hortensis, or common white beet, is cultivated in gardens for its leaves, which are frequently used in soups. The root of this species seldom attains a greater size than that of a man's thumb ; the varieties are the white beet, the green beet, and the Swiss, or chard beet: these vary from one to the other, but have never been known to change to the first or third sort.
3. The vulgaris, or red beet, the roots of which are large, and of a deep red colour. It is worthy of remark, that the larger these roots grow, they are more tender; and the deeper their colour, the more they are esteemed. The varieties of this species are the common red beet, the turnip-rooted beet, and the green-leaved red beet.
4. The cicla, which grows wild on the banks of the Tagus, in Portugal; it is originally a small, white root, but there is a variety of it, called by the Germans Runkelriibc, or the Beta allissima of Botanists, the culture of which cannot be too strongly recommended. The stalk of the latter grows to the height of seven or eight feet; and the root weighs from eight to twelve pounds. This variety of the root of scarcity is the time Mangel-wurtU, which some years since excited much attention in Britain ; though there is reason to suppose that other species of the beet have been frequently mistaken for the Beta albissima; the root of which is white, juicy, and streaked with red fibres : it is sown like cabbage, and to prevent injury to the fibres of the root, the young plants must not be pulled, but dug up with a spade; they should then be transplanted on the same day ( either in rainy weather or after sun-set), on a rich well-ploughed and manured soil, in rows, from sixteen to eighteen inches asunder. The roots, however, will not arrive at perfection, unless the plants be twice hoed, at least, and stripped of the superfluous leaves every fortnight, or three weeks.
From the first and third species before-mentioned, some German chemists have extracted sugar; but the difficulty and expence attending the process are so considerable, that this vegetable will never be worthy of the particular attention of the gardener for this purpose ; though it will always deserve to be cultivated as food for man and cattle.
The common white, as well as the red beet, should be sown separately in the beginning of March, upon an open spot of ground. It requires a rich soil (such as is fit for wheat), and a low situation, which may be watered occasionally. The ground should be thoroughly cleared of weeds, and manured at least a year before, it is sown. As the manuring is a matter of great im-portance, it should be repeated be- fore the soil is ploughed, which ought to be performed three times. Immediately after the third ploughing, the ground should be carefully harrowed. A rake, with teeth from nine to twelve inches distant, should be drawn across it, so as to mark lines, which must be crossed by others transversely. If the seed be fresh and sound, one is sufficient. but if doubtful, two may be dibbled about the depth of an inch, at each of the points where these lines cross. When the plants have acquired six or eight leaves each, the ground should be thoroughly weeded; care being taken not to deprive them of the surrounding soil. If more than one plant appear on the same spot, the superfluous ones must be removed ; and wherever a seed has been unproductive, another should be sown. When the ground is quite cleared from weeds, the plants grow rapidly, and all farther care is unnecessary.
The harvest generally commences about the end of September. The root should be dug up with great care, and the leaves and stalks cut off to prevent it from growing ; but, in performing this operation, though it is necessary to cut them close, great care must be taken that the root itself be not injured.
In the year 1755, M. Lulin-nde Chateauvieux, being of opinion that a great part- of the ex-pence of dung and labour might be saved, if pot-herls could be cultivated in the same manner as wheat according to the new husbandry ; he sowed a bed forty feet long and six wide, with beet, and two others with carrots. Where the plants grew too thick, they were thinned, so as to leave a distance of fourteen or fifteen inches beat the beets, and seven or eight between the carrots: neither of them were watered. On digging up the beet-roots, in October, they were all nearly five or six inches in diameter. He ascribes their luxuriant growth to the method of culture without manure.
The red bect is possessed of mild aperient qualities, and affords but a weak nutriment to the human body. Hence it should be eaten for supper, by persons of a costive habit: but, though it be easily digested, its use is sometimes attended with flatulency; for which reason, it would be more wholesome and nourishing, to eat the beet with other more mealy roots, such as potatoes; or with those of an aromatic nature, for instance, parsley, celery, etc.
Beet. - An important discovery has lately been announced by Prof. Scherer, of Vienna, and which promises to be of great service in domestic economy, especially when barley is scarce. He found from experiments, that beet-roots afford an excellent substitute for Malt, if they be deprived of the greater part of their juice by pressure, then dried, and treated In the same man-ner as grain intended to be used for that purpose. The beer thus brewed was found to be perfectly wholesome and palatable; bring little interior to that prepared from malt. Besides, the juice obtained from these excellent roots, may be advantageously converted into Su-gAr. See p. 101, of the present volume.