Beta vulgaris (Leaf Beet Group)
Beta cicla L.
Beta vulgaris cicla (L.) W.D.J.Koch.
Beta vulgaris flavescens (Lam.) Lam.
Common Name: Spinach Beet
Ruby Chard - some of the outside leaves have been harvested
Photograph by: Joe Mabel
Beta vulgaris (Leaf Beet Group) is an erect, biennial plant producing a rosette of leaves around 60cm tall, with a flowering stem that can be 150cm or more tall.
Spinach beet and the various chards are often grown in gardens for their edible leaves and leafstalks. They are seldom grown commercially because of the difficulty in transporting them to market before they wilt. There are also forms with colourful leaves that are grown as ornamentals.
A cultivated form of Beta vulgaris, it is not known in the wild
Not known in a truly wild situation.
|Cultivation Status||Cultivated, Ornamental
Beta vulgaris is originally a native of the warm temperate zone, though it has spread further north to the cold temperate zone. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 15 - 25°c, but can tolerate 4 - 35°c[
]. When dormant, the plant can survive temperatures down to about -6°c, but young growth can be severely damaged at 0°c[
]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 600 - 1,500mm, but tolerates 500 - 2,500mm[
A very easily grown plant, it succeeds in sun or light shade in moist soils but prefers a rich well-drained light neutral to alkaline soil[
]. Beets grow well in a variety of soils, growing best in a deep, friable well-drained soil abundant with organic matter, but doing poorly on clay. They prefer an open position and a light well-drained soil[
]. The optimum pH is 6.0 - 6.8, but the plant can tolerate 5 - 8.3[
]. Some salinity may be tolerated after the seedling stage. Beets are notable for their tolerance to manganese toxicity[
]. Plants are tolerant of saline soils and respond positively if salt is added to non-saline soils at a rate of about 30g per square metre[
Spinach beet and chard are often cultivated by gardeners for their edible leaves[
] - they do not make very good commercial crops since the leaves quickly droop after being harvested and so do not stand the journey to market.
If the leaves are harvested regularly, selecting those on the outside of the rosette, then it is possible to harvest individual plants for up to two years. The leaves can also be made available all year round by successional sowings[
Spinach beet is a good hot weather substitute for spinach[
The leaves can be available all year round from successional sowings if the winters are not too severe[
]. In severe winters it is possible to dig up some plants and move them to a protected area such as a greenhouse in order to produce fresh leaves[
]. Plants usually self-sow freely if they are well-sited and the ground is disturbed by hoeing etc[
Leaves and leaf stems - raw or cooked like spinach[
]. A very good spinach substitute, the leaves are large and easily harvested, yields are high[
]. Some people dislike the raw leaves since they can leave an unpleasant taste in the mouth[
Flowering stem - cooked. A broccoli substitute[
Although little used in modern herbalism, the plant has a long history of folk use, especially in the treatment of tumours[
]. Beet juice was formerly recommended as a remedy for anaemia and yellow jaundice, and was put into the nostrils to purge the head, used as ear drops to clear ringing ears, and as a mouthwash to alleviate toothache[
The root is carminative, emmenagogue, haemostatic, stomachic and is used as a tonic for women[
]. The root can be used as part of the diet, or the juice can be extracted and used as a health-promoting drink[
]. At least one litre of the juice from red-rooted forms must be taken each day in order to stimulate the immune system[
]. The juice is prescribed by herbalists as part of a cancer-treatment regime[
A decoction prepared from the seed has been used as a remedy for tumours of the intestines. The seed, boiled in water, is said to cure genital tumours[
The juice or other parts of the plant is said to help in the treatment of tumours, leukaemia and other forms of cancer such as cancer of the breast, oesophagus, glands, head, intestines, leg, lip, lung, prostate, rectum, spleen, stomach, and uterus[
The juice has been applied topically to treat ulcers[
Beet juice in vinegar is said to rid the scalp of dandruff, and has been recommended to prevent falling hair[
A decoction is used as a purgative by those who suffer from haemorrhoids in South Africa[
A good companion for dwarf beans, onions and kohl rabi[
]. Its growth is inhibited by runner beans, charlock and field mustard[
Seed - sow in situ in early mid spring for the summer crop and again in early July to August for the winter and spring crop. It is also possible to obtain an earlier crop by sowing the seed in a tray in a greenhouse in early spring and planting out in mid spring[