Category Archives: Ann Arbor Sugar Beet Project 2010

Ann Arbor Sugar Beet update

After

A few weeks ago, I had posted the unfortunate news about how my sugar beets went moldy. I throw them in my compost pile and figured I would have to get around to mixing them in or covering them.

Well I went out to the pile and found them all gone. Look at the before and after photo. We are talking about 350 Lbs of beets.

Before

There were deer prints around the pile and I assume they had a good feast of the beets.

Basically, deer love sugar beets. Sugar beets seeds are actually sold to private deer hunting land owners, so they can grow them to bait deer for hunting season.

Last year, I grew my beets at the MBG community garden which has a 10 foot high metal fence around it to keep out the deer. This year, I will be at the county farm park garden which does not have a fence.

The Beet Stops Here

OK. For those following the Ann Arbor Sugar Beet Project, I have some bad news to report. But before I give my report, lets recap some of the successes.

1. Successful found non-gmo seeds
2. Planted the seeds and yielded about 50LBs of non-gmo sugar beets
3. Got a bunch of people to grow sugar beets too
4. Joined up with Amish farmer Danny Miller who also grew sugar beets
5. Was written up in Edible Wow
6. Had a successful fundraiser for equipment
7. Did a successful sugar beet molasses test with about 15LBS

OK. so where am I now with the project?

I looked in my bins where I was storing my beets to discover that they were all molding. I think the warm then cold weather did the beets in, which I kept outside in the cold winter.

Ann Arbor Food

The result is about 350LBs of moldy beets, which are now food for the compost pile.

With that said, I have two pounds of seed and all of the equipment to give it another go.

What basically happened is that the places/kitchens that I had arranged to use to process the beets fell through and I was not able to find a kitchen. I stored them outside in the cool fall temperatures, for what I figure would be a week or so, but it was longer. Too long it turned out.

As for the people who still have beets in the ground, I really cannot say if they have retained enough sugar to make it worth while to make sugar from them or if the had gone to starch, but we can do a small batch test. If it works, we might be able to savage the project some.

So what is the lesson and the plan for next year?

For starters, I am thinking smaller this year. If people want to grow beets I will provide them with some of my seed and if they need to borrow my juicer and seltzer bottle and containers for a small at home production I am willing to help..

But I am not planning a large scale sugar beet party that would require the use of a kitchen larger than my own.

The idea was to start a project that promoted people in the Ann Arbor area (and where ever they can grow sugar beets) who were interested in local food to bring back the tradition of at home beet sugar making.

If you would like to grow sugar beets this year and you want some seed, I would be happy to mail you some.

$1.oo gets you 2TBS of non-gmo sugar beet seeds (shipping by regular mail included), enough to plant about 5 x 10 foot plot or more (50-75 beets),
$2.00 gets 4TBS, $3.00 gets 6TBS….etc.

Click the donate button to purchase seed using Paypal.


Provide a mailing address when filling out your order

Ann Arbor Sugar Beet Project: 350 Lb of Beets, no sugar yet

OK. I harvested my beets a few months ago and I teamed up with Farmer Danny Miller, to have a combine total of about 350 pounds of sugar beets to process.

I did a small 15 pound test (see video) and had some interesting results. I was able to create a very molasses tasting sugar that was a consistency of wet sand.

The plan was to have a sugar making party, but the spaces that I hoped to be able to use were not available. Throw in an end of semester push and the holidays and I have not touched my beets.

The beets are kept safely outside in freezer temperature, which I am not sure how that will effect the final sugar making result compared to if I processed them into sugar right after harvest.

With that said, I feel that my next test, which will attempt to make white sugar is a bench mark. The issue with sugar beet making for me is the huge harvest and the large scale production effort needed.

At about 10-15% sugar yield per beet weight, and a possible 1-5 pound per beet weight, a home sugar beet grower could find themselves with too many beets and overwhelmed with the prospect of making sugar.

But ideally, if sorting the beets does not significantly reduce sugar content, I feel that making sugar from beets in several small batches of say 25-50 pounds makes more sense for the home sugar maker. That should make around 3-7 pounds of sugar per batch, enough to provide a family sugar needs until the next batch in made. The process can be handled with say two pots going on the back of the stove.

I will be attempting to make and video a small batch this weekend which will include carbonation process to remove impurities and diffusion, which will separate the molasses from the white sugar crystals to produce both liquid molasses and white crystal beet sugar.

Related Posts

Molasses Test

Ann Arbor Sugar Beet Project: Molasses Test

OK. After growing, harvesting and trying to figure out how to make sugar from sugar beets without having much of a clue, we finally managed to make something sweet.

Check out the video to see what we did.

The result was a earthy, molasses syrup that turned part crystalized and sandy when it cooled. It has a strong flavor and I figure it would be good in some bean dishes and for a molasses kick with sweet quick breads.

Another interesting discovery was sugar water. And I am really excited about the potential.

The process of making beet sugar from sugar beets entails a long cooking time like maple syrup to get to the crystal stage, but I found that it only requires a minimal amount of cooking to create sweet water.

It tastes just like sugar and water and I figured that if someone wanted to make a batch of sweet beverage, they could do it with a lot less fuel use from making crystal sugar and then adding back the water.

For example one could make sweet iced tea with the hot sugar water from and early stage in this process.

Sugar water can be a possible economically viable use of this with small cottage food beverage businesses being about to create a locally produced home grown sugar micro beverage industry.

Thanks

Brian

Ann Arbor Sugar Beet Project Update

Ann Arbor Food

Sugar Beet

Howdy folks,

Here is a picture of one of my sugar beets. Actually it is the best one of the bunch. Most are smaller than I would have liked because I got them in late this year, but I still think I will have some beets to make into sugar this year. An Omish farmer at the Westside said that he was growing sugar beets too, so the plan is to buy a sack off of him to use to test the process just in cast our sugar beet harvest craps out. This is really a tester year for next year when I hope to have a quarter acre in production.

Sugar Making Party Oct 24th

I am still looking for a location to host the event, but it will be in the Ann Arbor area. I will post the actually location on my event section of this blog. Plan on having your beets harvested, wash and ready to make into sugar. If you have a large heavy bottom pot (not a canning pot), bring it.

Please email me with any questions.

chefbrian1@yahoo.com

GMO beet yield drops in US; Monsanto raises seed price 22 pct

Readers of this blog will know about The Ann Arbor Sugar Beet Project. The idea of the project is to empower home gardeners to grow their own beets and have more power where their food comes from.

I found this article which reports on the current state of GMO-Sugar Beet Production. The news is not good, and affirms the need for an organic/non-GMO practice of growing sugar beets, and sugar beet sugar.

GMO beet yield drops in US; Monsanto raises seed price 22 pct

By Rady Ananda

At the World Association of Beet and Cane Growers (WABCG) conference held in Cambridge, UK July 19-21, US growers, where 95% of beets are genetically modified, admitted that GMO beets showed reduced yields and cost more to produce than last year.

A June 2010 US Department of Agriculture report shows that yields dropped from 26.8 tons per acre in 2008-09 to 25.7 tpa in 2009-10.  Worsening conditions for farmers, the cost of production went up after Monsanto raised seed prices 22%.

William Baldwin, a director at the American Crystal Sugar Company, called the price increase “brutal,” reports AgriMoney.

WABCG, which promotes genetically engineered crops, reported that 130 delegates from over 20 nations attended its tenth conference.

Monsanto denied all negative comments about its product, reports AgriMoney.

Monsanto’s GM beets came under fire last year when a Northern California district court ruled that the USDA had unlawfully deregulated Monsanto’s sugarbeets, which are genetically engineered to withstand its herbicide Roundup.

Despite that the court found that Roundup Ready sugar beets “may cross-pollinate with non-genetically engineered sugar beets and related Swiss chard and table beets,” and “may significantly affect the environment,” in March, Judge Jeffrey White allowed planting to go forward while the federal government prepares an Environmental Impact Statement.

The court will hear arguments in August on whether to ban the GM beets.

Related articles:

http://www.agrimoney.com/news/monsanto-hits-back-at-claims-over-biotech-beet–2038.html

The Beet Goes ON

Sources:

AgriMoney, “Monsanto hits back at claims over biotech beet,” 28 Jul 2010.  http://www.agrimoney.com/news/monsanto-hits-back-at-claims-over-biotech-beet–2038.html

Rady Ananda, “USDA opens public comments on Monsanto’s H1-7 GM beet,” 19 Jun 2010.http://foodfreedom.wordpress.com/2010/06/19/usda-opens-public-comments-on-monsanto%e2%80%99s-h1-7-gm-beet/

Center for Food Safety, “Court Rules in GMO Sugar Beet Case,” 16 Mar 2010 http://truefoodnow.org/2010/03/16/court-rules-in-gmo-sugar-beet-case/

USDA Beet Yields, Table 14:http://www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/Sugar/Data.htm

World Association of Beet and Cane Growers, “Final Statement: 10th World Sugar Conference,” n.d. http://www.wabcg10.com/content-62

TT Super Club: Fundraiser for The Ann Arbor Sugar Beet Project

Ann Arbor Food

I have attended several charity dinner parties host by Tammy Coxen of TT Super Club. I was always a guess for those events, but this time I had the honor of helping host the event to support my local food project The Ann Arbor Sugar Beet Project. The idea around the Sugar Beet Project is to bring back local home garden non-gmo/organic sugar beet growing, and home sugar beet sugar making. Growing beets, and making beet sugar was a tradition that most Michiganders used to do. Sugar was not alway the cheap, and easily available product it is today. I and several other gardeners and farmers are growing sugar beets with the hope to produce sugar from them. The further goal is to increase our production in order to provide a viable source of local, non-gmo (and even organic) Brand of Michigan Beet Sugar.

We raised $316 for the project. The money will go toward securing more non-gmo seed, and purchasing equipment for sugar making like a juicer extractor, a large stock pot, a seltzer bottle, milk of lime, and a large food grade container.

I also brought over two trays of sugar beet starts, which I am happy to say were all planted.

Here are the pics from the meal:

Ann Arbor Food

Raspberry Gazpacho

Ann Arbor Food

Salad of Haricot Verts w/chive oil, Tomato Tartare, Microgreens

Ann Arbor Food

Fave Bean Agnoletti w/curry emulsion

Ann Arbor Food

Rabbit Rillette, warm potatoes, w/shallot vinaigrette, and home pickled vegetable

Ann Arbor Food

Bison Tenderloin, w beets, blueberries, and fennel

Ann Arbor Food

fresh Mozzarella, Banon Capriole, Fiore Sardo, Blue d’Auvergne, w/pickled raisins, creamed raw honey, and sour cherry perserves

Ann Arbor Food

Chocolate Layer Cake w/ganache frosting, edivle flowers w/brandied cherry vanilla ice cream

Ann Arbor Food

Carbonated Cherries, date walnut cake with Rooibos-Orange Shortbread