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What Is a Mangel Wurzel?

By Glyn Sinclair
Updated May 16, 2024
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A mangel-wurzel, also called mangold-wurzel, is a root vegetable chiefly used for animal feed. People are able to eat the root as well, especially when it is relatively newly grown as it tends to be a little sweeter. Mangel-wurzels were first grown during the 18th century to feed cattle. They tend to be somewhat larger than regular beets and are reddish-yellow in color with green above ground leaves. When eaten by humans, the leaves are generally steamed and the root itself is boiled and cut up or mashed like a potato.

The root originally hails from Germany and mangold translates to "beet" whereas wurzel means "root." The mangel-wurzel typically thrives in soil that has been well composted and is regularly watered. When these conditions are met, the roots of the vegetable become soft and full of flavor. They are nutritious and packed with vitamins and antioxidants. Mangel-wurzels sometimes require supplementary potash, or potassium, to maximize their crop numbers.

Mangel-wurzel tends to grow better in slightly cooler climates as the roots can rot when the temperatures are excessively warm, as in tropical climates. They can sometimes take up to four or five months to mature and can grow in up to 20 lbs in weight. When ready for the table, they are often shredded and used in salads, juices and even pickled. They can be diced and included in curries as well. The mangel-wurzel seeds are able to be stored in a refrigerator for up to three years before losing their freshness.

The beet root can also used to make a healthy tonic drink. This typically involves ingredients such as ginger, oranges and mangel-wurzel. The root is peeled and cut into thin slices and then shredded through a juicer. The ginger is then added and fresh orange juice poured into the juicer. The concoction can then be poured over ice cubes for a refreshing tonic.

Also known as the “Scarcity Root,” it is quite similar in taste to sweet red beets. The leaves are similar to spinach after they have been lightly steamed and the stems of the leaves are quite similar to asparagus in consistency. They are known to thrive when cultivated correctly and can produce a large crop.

The mangel-wurzel has a long and curious history. It has been written about, fictional characters have been named after it, and in England, mangel-wurzel hurling has become a team sport. The root has also been used to brew beer.

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