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sugar beet


Botanical name: Beta vulgaris var. altissima


The home of the wild sugar beet is the Mediterranean region. The sugar beet as we know it today is a cultivar of the wild-growing sea beet.

The main growing areas in Germany today are Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia. The sugar beet is grown in many subtropical and temperate areas worldwide.


The harvest begins when the leaves have withered. This is usually from September to December.

Appearance, taste, characteristics

The sugar beet is a biennial plant, the roots of which are harvested in the first year. It consists of four parts: leaf, head, neck and root. The head and leaves are also called tops or haulm and are used as fertilizer and fodder. Only the root itself, the tail-like end of which usually breaks off when it is harvested, serves in the production of sugar.

The shape of the root is typically turnip-like; it is whitish to light yellow. Characteristic of the sugar beet are the tap roots that go deep into the soil.

The yield from sugar beets is less than that from sugar cane, but sugar beets have a much shorter growing period.


The sugar beet consists for the most part of water. In addition, today it contains – following intensive breeding – 20% sugar. The sugar content used to be only about 10%. Sucrose is the most important type of sugar it contains; other types such as fructose are present in small amounts.

Besides sugar, it contains above all nitrogen compounds, among them proteins and amino acids. Pectins are also present.

Form of consumption, use, processing, practical tips for preparation

For the extraction of sugar, the beets are washed thoroughly after being harvested and shaved into thin strips. The sugar is extracted into a water solution by means of a diffusion process. To this end, the strips are exposed to water at a temperature or 70°C. This leaches the sweet components out of the cell walls of the sugar beet, and a thin juice is the result. This thin juice has a sugar content of 14%. With the help of a chemical reaction, calcium hydroxide with carbon dioxide, the thin juice is purified. Non-sugar substances are bound by the calcium and the carbon dioxide. The thin juice is then boiled down to a thick juice or syrup with a raw-sugar content of about 67%. This thick juice is finally boiled until it becomes a cooked mass of sugar crystals and syrup. In a centrifuge the syrup is separated from the crystals through the addition of water and steam. The more often this process is repeated, the whiter and more refined is the sugar.

Numerous waste products result from the production of sugar. The head, leaves, pulp and molasses are used for fodder. Sugar-beet pulp is also used to enrich baked goods with fiber.





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