Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Growing HUGE Veggies Our Ancestors Grew

As a homesteader, we are always looking for old varieties of heirloom seeds to feed our family and animals.  I find that heirloom varieties have withstood the test of time and are plenty hardy to sustain our farming endeavors.  We've grown quite a few HUGE varieties of veggies here using beyond organic standards and eco-friendly practices.

We grew Zucchini that was over 16 inches long (Delicious zucchini bread, stir fry and zoodles from the big ones)

We also grew Turnips that were almost 5 pounds!  
*Most were about 1-2 pounds*

Our Fordhook Giant Swiss Chard became famous when it grew over 5 feet tall.  This isn't a normal size for swiss chard.  I let it grow to let it bolt and give me seeds

Mary's Heirloom Seeds now offers almost 500 varieties of heirloom seeds but today we're going to share with you about an OLD variety that can grow 20 pounds each.

Red Mammoth Mangel Beets produce an incredible mass of edible beet leaves and a large root up to 20 pounds or more in size!    These beets prefer deeply tilled, free draining, sandy soil to achieve full size. Simply allow your animals to graze on the tops, cut the tops for feeding or harvest the root. 

Fodder beets have been around since the 1400s if not earlier.  These beets were prized as nutritious animal feed that was easy to store.  Fodder beets are hardy, adaptable and palatable. They are ideal for planting in late summer for use as a winter and spring crop. 

Early harvested (smaller) Red Mammoth Mangel Beet

Mangel beets prefer neutral soil and are capable of thriving in less-than-ideal soil conditions. Full sun, however, is a necessity. Sow seeds directly into the prepared soil one month before the final frost date for early harvest, 10 to 12 weeks before the fall frost date for a late harvest. Seeds should be placed two inches apart and seedlings must be thinned out early. Rows should be spaced no less than 12 inches apart. A moderate amount of rainfall or irrigation is necessary for optimal growth to facilitate this, and a light covering of mulch may be necessary to retain moisture in drier climates.

The greens can be harvested at any time. Plucking a few leaves from each plant will not stress the root and will allow you or your livestock to enjoy nutrient-rich greens for many weeks. Carefully monitored and controlled grazing may be acceptable in the last few weeks before harvest.

Traditionally, mangel beets are not used as livestock fodder until January. During the time between harvest and January, certain components begin to break down in the root, making them easier to digest and less likely to cause digestive issues in your livestock.

To supplement your poultry feed and provide a pecking distraction, simply hang a beetroot in the coop. Greens can be fed to the poultry, as well. For other livestock, including cattle, horses, pigs and goats, beets are best sliced or cut into chunks before adding them in the daily ration of feed.

Last year we even grew a German Giant Radish that was over 12 inches long.  Again, we let it "bolt" and produce seeds but I wasn't expecting it to be so large.

Planning for the future is important. In the words of Jack Reacher (Lee Child), "Hope for the Best. Plan for the worst." While we cannot predict the loss of income, unexpected medical bills or car repairs, we should plan ahead and prepare the best we can.

You might also enjoy reading my article You Don't Need a Farm to Grow Food

If you're looking to grow large crops for fodder, the Red Mammoth Mangel Beet is a GREAT option.  If you're looking to grow bigger veggies, we can help.  You might like our article Easiest Veggies to Grow from Seed to Harvest and Feeding Your Plants-Updated.

If you have additional questions, please feel free to ask.


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