History buff that I am, I can’t pass up a reference to sugar beets, especially since I was blathering about the Napoleonic wars only Friday. While chemists knew that it was possible to extract sugar from beets as far back as 1747, large-scale production of beet sugar didn’t occur until about 1813 in France. Why? Largely because until then no one had any real need to do so. Sugar was flowing into Europe in a steady stream from the Caribbean. But that changed, at least for the French, in 1807 when the British, as part of the ongoing war against Napoleon, began blockading France. Beet sugar was Napoleon’s response to the crisis. It was one of two major contributions Napoleon made to food technology during his tenure as, er…emperor. The other being canning. And there’s your bit of food trivia for the day.
Oh and, in case you were wondering, beet sugar production didn’t get going in the States in earnest until the late 1800’s.