Can new, sweeter beets defeat stigmas? Wisconsin breeders hope so


Pushed by new breeds geared toward enhancing taste and high quality, a “beet renaissance” is underway and shifting longtime client habits with the earthy, root vegetable.

Or, a minimum of, that’s the hope of beet breeders on the College of Wisconsin-Madison and Wisconsin’s business of beet farmers, who collectively produce greater than half the nation’s annual desk beet crop.

“It’s not your grandmother’s pickled beets,” mentioned Adam D’Angelo, a UW-Madison graduate scholar and plant biologist. “You go to the grocery retailer, and you discover beet juice, beet chips, beet this and beet that.”

D’Angelo and UW-Madison horticulture professor Irwin Goldman lately appeared on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “The Larry Meiller Present” to debate their work redesigning beets for contemporary tastes. Goldman mentioned folks typically complain “about the truth that they style like filth.”

“You take a look at it, and also you consider the huddled plenty of our ancestors and their old-style meals,” Goldman mentioned. “However there’s one thing about its earthiness, about its colour and its magnificence that I discover has grown on me through the years I’ve labored on it.”

The “filth” odor and taste is partially from geosmin, a naturally occurring micro organism byproduct present in soil. After a few years of analysis, Goldman mentioned he found beets themselves additionally create the chemical via their genetics.

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“Why? We do not know,” mentioned Goldman, who has studied and bred beets for 3 many years.

UW-Madison touts being the nation’s solely publicly funded desk beet breeder. One among its creations, “Badger Flame,” is designed to be extra yellow than different beet varieties, and it carries a sweeter, much less earthy taste. Goldman contributed to its improvement.

“We selected the rectangular form as a result of we like the way in which it really works within the kitchen if you’re holding the beet or if you’re peeling it and dealing with it,” he mentioned. “And by dialing again the crimson and rising the yellow, we’re virtually like portray with the vegetable, with the ability to make one thing that has a yellow and crimson swirl in it.”

With the beet being a specialty crop, Goldman mentioned it may be a problem for dwelling gardeners to order seeds.

He hopes it positive factors recognition after which turns into extra broadly out there.