When do I harvest sugar beet?

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Zech
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When do I harvest sugar beet?

Post: #282140 Zech
Wed Sep 24, 2014 5:38 pm

Disregarding the advice of those here who've tried this before, I've grown sugar beet this year. It's looking great, but how do I know when to harvest it? Do I wait for the leaves to die back? I've never grown any type of beet before, so I'm completely clueless.
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Re: When do I harvest sugar beet?

Post: #282144 MKG
Wed Sep 24, 2014 6:27 pm

I asked this question of the local farmers a few years ago (this used to be a big beet area). The answer, apparently, is "it depends", but it's always between September and Christmas. The leaves beginning to brown is a dead giveaway, but don't wait for that - it doesn't always happen.
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Re: When do I harvest sugar beet?

Post: #282145 Odsox
Wed Sep 24, 2014 6:32 pm

No real idea Zech, but when we used to grow it here I seem to remember the roads were full of sugar beet laden trailers about Christmas shopping time, ie, November/December.

I say "used to grow it here", how stupid is it that Ireland used to be self sufficient in white sugar only for the company to decide to close down. Now we import 100% of our sugar and the farmers have had to find something else to grow.
Sorry, hijacking threads again. :roll:
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Re: When do I harvest sugar beet?

Post: #282152 Zech
Wed Sep 24, 2014 8:46 pm

I was looking for the answer in a farming magazine, and read that they've had such good harvests in the UK recently that there's now a surplus and prices have plummeted. The big factories are offering one year opt-outs from their contracts, so farmers can grow something else for a year and go back to beet when there's more of a market for it. Oops, hijacking my own thread :lol:

We used to live in East Anglia, and saw those trailers full of beets (took me ages to figure out what they were), but I can't remember what time of year it was. I think it was about now.

I'm hoping to use it for brewing - maybe elderberry wine, if the flavour's not overbearing - so perhaps I should just get on and harvest it, as the elderberries are just about ripe.
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Re: When do I harvest sugar beet?

Post: #282167 ina
Fri Sep 26, 2014 9:02 am

When I first started out in farming (Germany, early 80s), we topped the beet before lifting and silaged the leaves for the cows. It turned into a terribly smelly, yucky-looking stuff (high water content), but the cows loved it, I suppose because even the leaves still have quite a lot of sugar in them. So maybe it would be possible to at least feed the leaves fresh to some sort of livestock?! (Sorry, doesn't tell you when to lift the beet, but at least it must have been before they turned brown!)
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Re: When do I harvest sugar beet?

Post: #282172 Green Aura
Fri Sep 26, 2014 10:12 am

Are all animals attracted to sugar, not just humans?
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Re: When do I harvest sugar beet?

Post: #282174 Zech
Fri Sep 26, 2014 12:04 pm

I don't know, but I suppose it would make sense from an evolutionary perspective. As I understand it, we like sugar because it's a good source of energy, and other animals have the same need for energy as we do.

Thanks for the tip about fodder, Ina. We don't have any livestock, but we know quite a few people who do. I'll ask around and see whether anyone can make good use of it. I have 50 plants - is that likely to be enough to be worth it?

I did try eating some of the leaves myself. When they were very young, they were nice, but they're more tough and bitter now, so I won't bother using them for human food.
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Re: When do I harvest sugar beet?

Post: #282181 ina
Fri Sep 26, 2014 1:43 pm

Zech wrote:Thanks for the tip about fodder, Ina. We don't have any livestock, but we know quite a few people who do. I'll ask around and see whether anyone can make good use of it. I have 50 plants - is that likely to be enough to be worth it?


For a smallholder, I should think so. When topping a bit of the actual beet tends to stay on the leaves, too. I think we did the harvesting in October, thinking back on it (I should remember that - my boss, the farmer, had just died and we were up to our ears in sugar beet in between funeral and the usual milking etc! :( ).

The fact that animals also like sweet stuff might well be related to the fact that their milk (just as human milk) contains sugar; so they are conditioned from birth to like sweetness.
Ina

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