The Natural History of the Mangold-Wurzel


The mangold-wurzel (or mangel-wurzel) is a member of the family Chenopodiaceae, genus Beta (beets). The beets include the sugar beet (Beta vulgaris altissima), beetroot (Beta vulgaris craca), and Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris flavascens).  The mangold-wurzel (Beta vulgaris vulgaris) is a subspecies of the common beet (Beta vulgaris), as are chard (or leaf beet or spinach beet) (Beta vulgaris cicla), and sea beet (Beta vulgaris maritima).

For those with limited space, it is possible to cultivate the  mangold-wurzel in a pot (see right). It must however be removed from the pot before hurling.
This is really important.

Further Clarification in Tabular Format


Latin Name

Interesting Information

Mangold-wurzel or

Beta vulgaris vulgaris

Developed in the 18th century for cattle fodder, probably derived from sea beet which is indigenous to southern and western Europe. Identified by its large white or yellow swollen roots. The name comes from the German for beet (mangel) and root (wurzel).


Beta vulgaris craca (or rubra)

Eaten in Roman times, but in those days the root was long and white.  The root only became swollen and red in the 16th century. Everything within a 1 yard radius of beetroot turns purple due to the betacyanin pigment it contains. Some people cannot break this pigment down so their urine goes a funny colour and they think they are dying. This condition is called betacyaninuria or beeturia.

Leaf beet or chard or spinach beet

Beta vulgaris cicla

A leafy vegetable without a large root.  It may be cooked like spinach. It has been available in the shops since before 350 BC.

Sugar beet

Beta vulgaris altissima

The Prussians found out how to get sugar out of these in 1750 which was just as well for Napoleon because the British blockades were preventing cane sugar getting through to continental Europe.

Turnips, swedes etc.


These are not even slightly related to the beets and are quite unsuitable for sporting purposes.