Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Early Blood Turnip-Rooted Beet

photo courtesy of Old Sturbridge Village

As promised, we will be posting historical information on the RAFT (Renewing America's Food Traditions) Grow-out project food varieties. The RAFT Grow-out project is a joint effort of Slow Food USA and Chefs Collaborative whereby local farmers have committed to growing the endangered foods and local chefs have committed to serving the endangered foods on their menus at harvest time. In addition to the farmers' and chefs' participation, we encourage you to select a vegetable that you can grow in your garden or in a container. The more exposure individuals have to these foods, the more likely we are to be able to save them and preserve biodiversity in our food system.

The Early Blood Turnip-Rooted Beet is a variety that has been cultivated since the early 1800s and is prized for its sweet and tender flesh. The beet has very dark, violet-red flesh with lighter zones. The leaves are dark with bright red petioles. Even when it grows to a large size, the flesh remains flavorful, tender, and juicy.

It has a slight clove-like aroma and wonderful sweetness - light like a carrot, but without the intensity of sweetness that a carrot has. If you were to sample it raw, you would find it has an apple-like, slightly astringent flavor. It has a complexity of taste that starts with a cinnamon flavor and a hint of heat, followed by a tartness and rich, earthy finish. The beet is good both boiled and baked, and the leaves are an excellent cooked green. And that's an added bonus - it's two vegetables in one!

If you are looking for a beet that will overwinter well, the Early Blood Turnip-Rooted Beet is an excellent beet for cold-storage, keeping well in root cellar storage for 8 months or more.

It has a variable rate of maturity - between 48 and 68 days - which makes it somewhat challenging for commercial growers, but an ideal variety for individuals and smaller farms.

The Early Blood Turnip-Rooted Beet is a highly endangered variety and is on the Slow Food USA Ark of Taste.

In addition to growing the Early Blood Turnip-Rooted Beet, other actions you can take include requesting it from farmers at farmers markets - now is a good time to do so in order that they have time to plan - and requesting that your local grocery store carry the Early Blood Turnip-Rooted Beet.

Seeds are available from Old Sturbridge Village and Seed Savers Exchange.

Please feel free to post a comment to let us know if you or someone you know will be growing the Early Blood Turnip-Rooted Beet. We'd love to hear all about it!

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