Now that spring has sprung (at least on the calendar, anyway) I've got planting season on the brain! Not that I have a green thumb, but I was recently helping my mother plan out her summer garden and noticed something new on her to-grow list this year: the Detroit Red Beet.

I don't consider myself to be a picky eater, but beets are one vegetable I typically pass on. However, I'm curious to know about anything having to do with Michigan and Michigan history, so I began to wonder why a popular root vegetable was named after the Motor City.

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D.M. Ferry & Company

According to the Henry Ford Museum,

Before the automobile, Detroit had a diversified industrial economy that included one of the world's leading seed production companies.

Dexter Mason Ferry founded D.M. Ferry & Company in 1879 and was a major producer of high quality vegetable and garden seeds. The company had an 850 acre seed farm just north of Detroit, in addition to five warehouses in the city that were used to germinate the seeds. Many Michiganders have no clue that Detroit used to be such a well-known hub for vegetable seed activity-- I sure didn't!

Detroit Red

The famous Motor City beet was first introduced by D.M. Ferry in 1892 and has been considered the standard for red beets ever since! This root vegetable is known for its blood-red color and sweet taste. Unlike other more well-known variations, Detroit Red Beets are know for the uniform smoothness, globular shape, and lack of the appearance of rings.

When to Plant

Everwilde Farms says,

Direct sow Detroit Dark Red beet seeds outside 4 weeks before the last expected frost. Soften the seeds by soaking them in water for 2 hours, then plant in full sun and well drained soil. Sow them 1" deep and 1" apart in rows 1-2' apart. Tamp down the earth above the seeds to ensure good contact with the soil, and germination should take place in 5-15 days.

The root vegetable takes about 58 in total to mature, but in the meantime the green tops can be harvested early and used for salad greens, much like a chard. These beets are also perfect for pickling, canning, and freezing.

Have you ever heard of the Detroit Red Beet before, or grown it youself?

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