Recommended Heirloom Varieties of Beets

Heirloom simply means antique or old and when it comes to seeds, it means someone has been saving these varieties so that all future gardeners can try them in their own veggie patch.

Candy Cane Beets

Candy Cane 'Chioggia' Beets

The striping on 'Chioggia' beets occurs on the interior of the vegetable and gives it a candy-cane pattern. This heirloom variety was first introduced to the American public in the late 1840. It was named after a fishing village in Northern Italy where it had been first cultivated in the early 1800s. It can also go by the names: Candy Stripe or Bull’s Eye Beet.

Photo by: Shutterstock/farbled


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Botanical Names: Beta vulgaris

Heirloom is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “a horticultural variety that has survived for several generations usually due to the efforts of private individuals”. When you are purchasing seeds or plants often it will say heirloom on the package or tag. This simply means that this variety has been preserved for many centuries and not manipulated to any degree. If the seed dates back to the 1800s, then you are growing the same exact plant variety as someone during that time period.

Often times the people saving the seeds are in the form of private organizations or seed libraries that have popped up across the nation. With seed libraries in place, gardeners can know that seeds dating back to our ancestors are being kept alive and moving forward for generations to come. If you are a seed saver, google “seed libraries” and find one in your local area or join an online group. Articles from the Boston Globe to the The Wall Street Journel have popped up talking about these new-age libraries for gardeners, who share and protect old varieties of seeds.

Here are some heirloom beet varieties that gardeners clamor for:

 ‘Crosby Egyptian’ – Another variety that is not your type beet shape, it is more flatted than round. The root is fabulous, but many gardeners rave about the greens. From seedling to older greens, they are full of flavor and are a must-have for anyone who loves beets. It is said that the “Egyptian” beet varieties were developed in Germany and this variety became popular in the States around 1880. This variety received a glowering endorsement in the American Garden and has been a favorite of kitchen gardeners since 1889. 

‘Crapaudine’ – It is believed that is beet variety is the oldest heirloom seed available dating back 1000 years. In the French book, The Vegetable Garden, published in 1885 it is stated then to be one of the oldest known varieties. This is a very, very rare selection and if you are able to find seeds – buy them right away. Like many older varieties, it is the shape of a carrot, but the flavor is clamored for by top chefs across the world. 

‘Cylindra’ – Want to impress your guests at your next dinner party? Serve them ‘Cylindra’ beets which look more like a carrot than a beet. This Danish heirloom variety dates back to the 1880’s and goes by two other names including ‘Formanova’ and ‘Butter Slicer’. The latter name  it due to gets soft and desirable texture. The almost burgundy long, cylindrical shape is where the name obviously stems. At full growth after 60 days, most measure out at being typically 6 to 9 inches long. 

‘Yellow Cylindrical’ - This is a mangel-variety of beets, which means it is more oblong than round. This rare European heirloom was actually first used as animal food, but many foodies are finding this culinary treat and adding it to their gardens. The color is golden-yellow on the skin and the flesh is white. It is typically picked young and used to top salads or roasted as a side. 

‘Golden’ - This variety dates back to the 1820’s or prior. If you are not fond of beets, this may be a variety to start with as the flavor is very mild and unlike reds. The greens are very tasty as well. After planting, crops will be ready for harvest after 55 days. 

‘Chioggia’ or ‘Bassano’ - The striping occurs on the interior of the vegetable and gives it a candy-cane pattern. This heirloom variety was first introduced to the American public in the late 1840. It was named after a fishing village in Northern Italy where it had been first cultivated in the early 1800s. It can also go by the names: Candy Stripe or Bull’s Eye Beet. 

‘Albino’ – Originally from Holland, this gourmet white beets has a very sweet flavor, without the red staining quality of its counterparts. Yield is high and excepted to occur around 50 to 55 days after planting. It super, sweet flavor makes it unusual. Ideal for boiling, pickling, baking, and freezing. Also noted that it can be used for making sugar. 

‘Albina Vereduna’ – This heirloom variety originates from the Netherlands. It is a very worthwhile variety that is valued for its sweet flavor. Its unique white skin and flesh is an added bonus. ‘Albina Vereduna’ is a great side dish when it comes to fish and chicken dishes. Like all beetroot, the leaves are high in vitamins and nutrients. Delicious grated and served raw or paired with other varieties such as ‘Bull’s Blood’ and ‘Golden’. 

Whether it is red, golden, striped or white beets all these varieties have a wonderful history with gardeners and it would be a missed opportunity not to try at least one in the garden this year.

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