Growing Carrots

   

Carrots were probably used as an edible vegetable beginning around 900 A.D. in Afganistan. Prior to that they had been grown for their medicinal properties.

History - Growing - Harvesting - Storing - Uses - Pests

 

History

Carrots were introduced to North America in Colonial times.

Early carrots were almost any colour but orange, they were white, green, yellow, red, purple and black. Selective breeding to increase beta carotene levels have resulted in the orange colour we now know.

New "designer" varieties are again giving us white, yellow and even purple carrots today.

The History And Evolution of the Carrot

Growing

There are four main types of carrots you can grow:

Nantes - sweet tasting, cigar shaped, they have a small core and a large cortex in which sugar accumulates. Shorter storage life is the trade off for a sweeter tasting carrot.

Imperators - long tapered carrots, have a long shelf-life, later maturing with a larger more fibrous core. Usually the type found at the supermarket. These carrots are good, but not as sweet as Nantes.

Chantenays - between Nantes and Imperator in shape, tapered, but with a rounded bottom. Their sweetness is similar to Nantes.

Danvers - are like stubby imperators, conical in shape with tapered ends. They are usually thicker than Imperators . Used in processing and the fresh market.

Carrots grow best in finely textured soil with good drainage.

Carrot seedlings are relatively weak, so prepare a smooth seed bed to avoid soil crusting.

Many people dig a trench, to which they mix sand and peat moss as they back fill.

The soil should be cultivated to at least 1 feet deep, so the hardpan does not cause misshapen roots.

After all risk of frost, plant seeds approximately 3/4" deep with 12-18 seeds per foot. Plants should be thinned to about 6 plants per foot to avoid roots from intertwining and allowing the roots to develop to their full size.

Carrots require up to 1" of water per week throughout germination, and root enlargement.

Carrots generally do quite well in most soils without extra fertilizer, but if you add fertilizer use one with a high middle number (phosphorus) and low first numbers (nitrogen) such as 11-48- 0. Nitrogen promotes top growth, with little root development.

Many hybrids and variations of the four main types are available. A few of the more interesting carrots available are:

Purple Haze - shaped like imperators but have a smooth purple skin with orange center, cooking dissolves the purple color.

Thumbelina - round carrots about the size of a golf ball.

Lady fingers - baby carrots only 2 to 4" long.

Creme De Lite- pale creamy yellow root, similar to Chanteny shape.

Atomic red, Mellow Yellow, and Cosmic Purple, all retain their unusually colour after cooking.

Harvesting

Carrots may be harvested once they reach an adequate size. Those grown to maturity store better and are sweeter. For storage, harvest when soil temperatures are cooler, this reduces the amount of "field heat" which must be removed.

Muddy, or dirty carrots can be hosed off ( this reduces internal heat) and allowed to dry on a garage floor or other sheltered spot. Once dry, trim the tops to within 1" of the root.

Storing

Carrots store best at just above freezing temperatures and high humidity. Carrots will keep for weeks in a "breathable" plastic bag in the fridge, but for longer term storage in a root cellar is best. Many people have good luck keeping carrots by layering carrots and peat moss in large storage containers, kept in the coldest spot in the basement.

Carrots may be kept as a frozen vegetable, a simple method is to wash and slice carrots, place raw carrots in a freezer container, fill with water and freeze into a solid block of ice. This block of ice, can then be cooked on the stove top as you would normally boil fresh vegetables.

Uses

Carrots can be eaten raw, grated into salads, blended into carrot juice, made into jam, cooked as a vegetable, put in soups and stews and even pickled.

Weight for weight, they stand third in nourishing value on the list of roots and tubers, potatoes and parsnips taking first and second places. Carrots containing less water and more nourishing material than green vegetables, have higher nutritive qualities than turnips, swedes, cabbage, sprouts, cauliflower, onions and leeks. Moreover, the fair proportion of sugar contained in their composition adds to their nourishing value.

Pests

The insect to watch for is the rust fly. Carrots planted after the first week of June often escape the first generation of rust flies, and those harvested before September usually escape the second generation. Interplanting onions or garlic in the carrot beds will also ward off the villainous flies.

Compost and wood ashes will also scare off not only rust flies but carrot weevils, wireworms, and other carrot pests. Probably the best organic way to get rid of pests is to soak the bed once a week with a thin mixture of wood ashes and water using a watering can.

Most carrot pests and diseases are soil-borne and can be controlled by crop rotation.

 

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The Longest Carrot recorded in 1996 was 5.14 metres (16feet 10 ½ inches)

The Heaviest Carrot recorded in the World 18.985 lb 1998(single root mass)John V. R. Evans, USA


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