Homemade Michigan Beet Sugar: Reviving a Tradition

Picture of sugar beet farmer in michigan from 1939

A previous post talked about how most of the sugar beets grown in Michigan come from GMO sugar beets. I am not a big fan of GMO foods and thought it unfortunate that the access to non-GMO white beet sugar, a proud Michigan staple, is not available. Being a local food guy, I thought that there has to be a way to get my hands on beet sugar or make it myself.

Then I found this video on how to make sugar from sugar beets.

The process is a little involved, but I think it is doable and not much more involved then canning tomatoes or making jam. Maybe along with canning, pickling and jam making, a grass root movement can be started to bring back home beet sugar making.

Most home gardens in Michigan used to include a spot to grow sugar beets for sugar. I do not use much white sugar. I used about one five pound bag of big chief this year for a family of four, along with Michigan maple syrup and honey. Looking at the demo, I figure that a single beet could provide a few ounces of white sugar, and even more left over molasses sugar. I estimate that a small patch of a few dozen sugar beets could produce enough sugar for the year, about a pound of white sugar per a half to a dozen beets. I admit that I am getting ahead of myself having neither grown sugar beets or made white sugar from them, but I am up to the challenge. Maybe by this time next year, I will be planning my Thanksgiving desserts that includes my organically home grown, and made white beet sugar.

More info on Michigan Sugar Beets from MSU

6 responses to “Homemade Michigan Beet Sugar: Reviving a Tradition

  1. Hi! I’m in Alberta, Canada. (Massive beet sugar industry in the Taber area. Seems it uses GMO seeds. I won’t use that.) I’m also interested in growing natural sugar beets and extracting sugar – brown is OK if like demerara sugar, my favorite cane type. What can the beet molasses be used for? (They ferment it to rum in Central America!)

    One person who tried to boil sugar out of beets failed – he said it tasted gross. OK, so who really knows how to get some good tasting (white or brown) sugar from sugar beet.

    Surely it is not ONLY doable in huge costly factories!

    PS: I’ve got contacts in Atlantic Canda also seeking to grow
    the beet…. far from natural enemies lurking around Taber, and probably Michigan too. (Root worms, etc.)

    IF it can be done on smaller scale, I see a market from the very diversified farmers in that area of Atlantic Canada, to sell to folks seeking LOCAL and ORGANIC foods. However ours will be certified in a new way (not “organic”) but Christian biblically approved (as distinct from “kosher” that allows GMO foods! Most canola oil here is “kosher” marked AND from GMO plants. Same is happening to beet sugar. To take genes and put it in a very different organism is NOT to breed kind after kind! God knows what troubles it may cause in the long run!)

  2. Pingback: The Beet Goes On: Ann Arbor Sugar Beet Project 2010 « Last One Eating


    Lee Stern
    VP non-gmo products

    • Lee,

      I buy some extra seed to give to gardeners who want to start a small plot, but I do not sell sugar.

      The idea is to pool together a group of home sugar beet growers to create a small non-gmo sugar beet cooperative. If there is any surplus sugar, we might sell some. The coop is not in place. I am hoping for to get it going for this year. Last season was a test run.


      • I would be interested in participating in a test garden with your seed if it is GMO free! I live in South Central Idaho in the middle of sugar beet country but theirs is GMO Roundup Ready. YUCK! email is provided as required.

  4. Has anyone successfully made sugar at home from sugar beets?

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