Saturday, April 8, 2017

All you need to know about growing carrots

Carrots come in all different colors and sizes
Saturday, April 8, 2017

Carrots are rich in antioxidants, beta-carotenes, vitamin A, vitamin C, many B-complex vitamins like folic acid, B6, thiamin, pantothenic acid, as well as minerals like calcium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, copper.  They are super easy to grow.

Carrots, like turnips, have been around for thousands of years.  Its seeds were used for medicinal purposes.  Carrots likely originated in the Iran/Afghanistan area and spread to the Mediterranean.  It is shown in Egyptian tomb paintings from 2000 BC. The first records that it was used for the European kitchen was in the 900‘s in Spain.  Carrots were originally used mainly for livestock feed in the American colonies and for its aromatic leaves and seeds.

The first wild carrots were purple.  The wild carrot is known as Queen Anne’s lace and adapted very well in America.  The popular culinary orange colored variety did not become stable until the 1700’s.  It quickly became the most popular variety in both Europe and the colonies.  

If you let your carrots go to seed, they send up stalks and have flowers that look just like Queen Anne's lace white, lacy blooms.  Carrots are prolific self seeders.  If you let one or two carrots go to seed, you will have baby carrots over winter that will come to full size in the spring.
Carrots getting ready to bloom
Carrots are related to parsley, fennel, dill and cumin.  Like their cousins, the greenery also is edible.  For full nutritional information on carrots, Nutritional info-raw carrots

Carrots like loose, well dug soil rich in organic matter although they will also grow in moderately rich soil.  The ideal soil would be dug 6-10” deep and mixed with sand and compost.  The longer the root, the deeper the depth of loose soil needed to grow large, straight roots.

There are also shorter root varieties that can be sown if you do not want to dig that deeply or if you want to grow them in pots.  Some short varieties are Little Finger (4” long), Adelaide (the size of your pinky), Short n Sweet (4”), Thumbelina (1-1.5” diameter), Parmex (1.2-2” diameter), Tonda di Parigi (1.5-2” diameter).

Sow every 2 weeks March-July.  First plantings should be about 2 weeks prior to your first frost.  Carrots do not like to be transplanted so direct sowing is best.  Soak seeds 6 hours before sowing.  Sow 1/4” deep, 1/2” apart thinning to 2-4”.  Keep evenly moist, do not allow to dry out, for the up to 14 day germination period.  Carrots are ready to harvest in 50-80 days.  Baby carrots can be harvested in 30-40 days.

For your last plantings of the season look for a type like Autumn King or Nantes that can be harvested throughout the winter.  Merida can be planted in late September for an early spring harvest.  Frost actually makes the carrots sweeter so leaving them in the ground in the fall will improve their flavor.  All kinds of colors are now available-white, red, orange, yellow, and purple.

If you want to bring the harvested carrots indoors to store, placing in a cool place in sand that is kept moist is the best indoor long term storage for the winter.

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