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Beet Fleshy Root

The fleshy root of the beet plant, Beta vulgaris, is commonly consumed as a vegetable when raw, cooked, or pickled. The greens of the plant are also edible and some varieties, known as leaf beets or Swiss chard, are grown specifically for their leaves.

Beet Fleshy Root

Beet plants typically grown for the flavor and consistency of their roots are often referred to as garden or table beets. The vegetables they produce are formed during the first season of growth and are most familiar in shades of red or magenta, though gold and white varieties are also cultivated. Their shape is typically globular or oblong, and their texture is crunchy when raw, but soft and creamy when cooked.

No other vegetable contains as much sugar as the beet root, a fact reflected in the sweetness of its taste. A variety called the sugar beet is specifically grown for the high quantities of sucrose stored in its roots. The process of extracting sugar from beets was first experimentally carried out as early as the 1740s in Germany, but did not become a large commercial enterprise until the early nineteenth century. The beet-sugar industry grew rapidly in France under the control of Napoleon Bonaparte when the country’s West Indian supply of sugar was impeded by the British navy. Today sugar beets are the source of about thirty to forty percent of the world’s sugar supply.

Contributing Authors

Nathan S. Claxton, Shannon H. Neaves, and Michael W. Davidson - National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, 1800 East Paul Dirac Dr., The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, 32310.