hist-brewing: Re: sugar: cane vs. beet

Beth Ann Snead ladypeyton at yahoo.com
Mon Jan 4 21:28:51 PST 1999

---Joyce Miller <msmead at doctorbeer.com> wrote:
> My impression is that beet sugar is a relative latecomer to Europe. 
I say
> "impression" because my only evidence is a political cartoon from
the early
> 1800's ridiculing Napolean for attempting to introduce a sugar beet
> to France.

Toussaint-Samat's _History of Food_ says of Sugar beets:

p559.  "....beet sugar came to the fore with the great changes of the
nineteenth century."

p 560.  "In 1575 Olivier de Serres pointed out that beet had a high
sugar content:  'A kind of root which came to us from Italy not long
since...the juice of which, yielded in the cooking, resembles sugar
syrup, and its vermillion colour is very handsome to behold.'  But no
one was particularly interested."

same page.  "In 1745 the German chemist Marggraf...was the first to
succeed in extracting and isolating beet sugar."

p560-61.  "...Napoleon ordered 32,000 hectares of land to be put down
to sugar beet growing, to free the French economy from dependence on
colonial imports."

I could find no reference to sugar beets whatsoever in Hunt's _Plant
Names of Medieval England_ and can only assume that this is because
there was no such name to list.  However, since de Serres, in the
above quote, identifies it as an Italian plant this doesn't mean much.
 The only question is what de Serres meant by the phrase "not long

On the other hand, it can be reasonably assumed that if beet sugar
couldn't be isolated until 1745 it probably wasn't on the market as a
substitute for cane sugar. 

Beth Ann Snead
Lady Lettice Peyton in the SCA
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