The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Mangels (aka fodder beets)


One of our new crops this year is Mammoth mangels, a kind of fodder beet often grown for livestock. In our case, we're hopeful the roots will supplement our milk goat's diet during the winter months. I only planted one bed, though, since I wasn't sure whether Abigail would actually eat the offering and also wasn't sure how well the fodder beets would grow in our garden. With new crops, it always makes sense to start small!

Thinning mature mangels

I'd been ignoring our mangel bed all summer, actually. But when I dropped by to weed the bed, I realized that forgetting to thin our plants this spring meant some roots would be best harvested early. So when I went ahead and pulled the largest plants and will hope that the smaller mangels left behind will still have time to bulk up this fall. I ended up with about half a bushel of thinnings --- pretty impressive from about nine square feet of growing area!

Mangel harvest

Mangels are reputed to be a high-quality feed for ruminants, but there are a couple of reasons why the crop has fallen out of favor. First is the thinning problem. Like their relative Swiss chard, each mangel "seed" is really a cluster of seeds. So you nearly always end up with two or three plants in each spot, meaning you absolutely have to hand thin. As I learned, if your seeds germinate well and you don't thin, mangels won't thrive since they're too close together. On the other hand, if you have so-so germination and forget to thin, the plants can still grow quite large even without thinning.

Basket of mangels

The other potential issue with mangels is that they can cause scouring (diarrhea) if fed in large quantities to ruminants. Johnny's (the source of our seeds) reports that small roots of our variety can be fed to livestock immediately, but that it's safer to wait at least a month before feeding larger roots. So I'll try a few of the fingerling mangels on Abigail today and will sock away the larger roots in the crisper drawer of our fridge, which has been halfway emptied after the huge influx of carrots this spring made their way into our goat's mouth. It looks like goat-feed season is shifting from orange to red roots --- I hope Abigail enjoys the mangels as much as the more labor-intensive carrots!

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I'm trying mangels this fall (in zone 7b) for making beet kvass :)
Comment by Lucy Wed Aug 12 07:17:16 2015
I planted a few, but my picky goaties wont even eat carrots, so I am doubtful the mangels will be accepted. Hoping that at least the chickens can eat them chopped up.
Comment by Deb Wed Aug 12 22:23:29 2015

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