Growing Organic Bumper Crop Carrots
The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution. ~
Did you know that until the 17th century, carrots were naturally purple! Well, it is believed in most circles.
The wild ancestors of the carrot are possibly from Persia (now Afghanistan and Iran) which is scientifically known as Daucus carota or the wild carrot. Through the centuries, to minimize the woody core, reduce bitterness and increase sweetness, the Daucus carota subspecies sativus was selectively bred.
Originally, carrots were grown for their aromatic leaves and seeds. In fact, carrot seeds have been found in Germany and Switzerland dating back to 2000-3000 BC. The first record of root consumption was in the 1st century.
It wasn’t until the 17th century in the Netherlands, that orange colored carrots were cultivated. By and large, prior to the 17th century, carrots were purple with sporadic transfigured versions of yellow and white. For more history on carrots see History of Carrots – A Brief Summary & Timeline.
FYI: Britain went retro; in 2002 purple carrots, but still orange on the inside, were commonly sold in markets.
Please note that there is still controversy on where the orange carrot originated and when it was domesticated. As well, Anthocyanin carrots (purple in color) are still cultivated in Asia, but have been quickly replaced by orange rooted carrots.
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Carrots of a Different Color
Orange: Orange carrots get their bright orange color from beta-carotene. As you may know, beta-carotene enhances the immune system, and benefits skin disorders and eye problems. Orange carrots are comprised of around 4 times the recommended daily dose of vitamin A. Orange carrots are sweet, a touch earthy and can be consumed raw or cooked.
Carrots are easy to grow, and Orange Carrot Seeds are available online from Amazon.
Purple: Purple carrots get their color from anthocyanin. They are only purple on the outside and have a nice orange color on the inside. Purple carrots are quite sweet and can also be a bit peppery ate times. Purple carrots contain all the phytochemicals found in orange carrots. As well, they are comprised of anthocyanin which is a powerful antioxidant. However, the body has a difficult time absorbing large amounts of anthocyanin, so it may be best to have smaller frequent portions. Purple carrots are known as an anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, antimicrobial and a good source of vitamin A.
Carrots are simple to grow and Purple Carrot Seeds can be found on online from Amazon.
Red: Red carrots are almost identical in flavor to orange carrots. They get their color from lycopene which is a rich source of antioxidants. Lycopene is said to help prevent cancer, particularly prostate cancer. Red carrots are also very high in beta carotene which supports eye and vision health. Like their orange counterparts, they are delicately sweet and lightly earthy in flavor.
Carrots are a breeze to grow and Red Carrot Seeds are available online from Amazon.
Yellow: These carrots get their color from lutein. Yellow carrots also contain xanthophylls, which is a pigment similar to beta-carotene. Both lutein and xanthophylls are good sources for eye health and cancer prevention. In addition, these elements reduce the risk of macular degeneration and hardening of the arteries. Yellow carrots are slightly sweeter than orange carrots with a bit more earthiness.
Carrots are stress-free to grow and Yellow Carrot Seeds can be found on online from Amazon.
Black: These carrots get their color from anthocyanin which is an excellent antioxidant. Just remember, the body has a hard time absorbing large amounts of anthocyanin, so it is probably best to have frequent small servings. Black carrots have antibacterial, antioxidant and anti-fungicidal properties plus it helps inhibit bad cholesterol (LDL). The black carrot tastes richer than the typical orange carrot and is quite crunchy in texture.
Note: The black carrot has recently gained popularity, not so much for its culinary use but as a natural food dye.
Carrots are easy to grow, and Black Carrot Seeds can be found on Amazon.
White: Some say that white carrots are the least healthy of all carrot varieties. Although white carrots do not have pigments, they do contain phytochemicals. It is the phytochemicals that give the carrots medicinal value such as reducing strokes and cancer. As well, white carrots are a great source of fiber.
These carrots have mildly sweet flavor and a nice crisp crunch.
Carrots are simple to grow and White Carrot Seeds are available online from Amazon.
Growing Your Own Carrots
Growing your own carrots opens the ‘green thumb’ door of many ideas. As you know, there are thousands of types of carrots. There are a rainbow of colors; black, white, yellow, purple, red and orange. Then there are fat, short, long, stubby, extra-thin and of course misshapen carrots.
Nope, most carrots grown in the garden are not uniform in appearance like the grocery variety. Most importantly, your garden carrots will taste far better than what you buy in the supermarket, even compared to the organic produce!
Selecting a Variety
If you have special growing condition, then you might want to choose a certain variety of carrots to grow. But for the most part, you should be pleasantly pleased with picking the most fascinating carrots that you find online or in a catalog.
Here are a few suggestions for special conditions:
Clay soil: Although carrots grow best in loose free soil, they can be grown in clay. The short and thicker varieties will be the most successful. That way they are less apt to be deformed by trying to grow in heavy soil. Consider small and round varieties like Amarillo Yellow, Nantaise améliorée, Nutri-red, Pariesenne, Red-core Chantenay, St Valéry, Tonda di Parigi and Touchon.
Container Plants: Although carrots grow best in the earth, you can get a good harvest growing them in containers. Again, short and thicker varieties will be more rewarding. Try the same varieties that are mentioned for clay soil (above). You can also grow full size carrots. Just grow the carrots in a deep container so they can mature to full length.
Different Climates: Carrots can be left in the ground through the winter in cold climates. Make sure to lay down a deep mulch of straw or hay. Carrots that are left in the ground in warm climates are susceptible to insects. Just make sure to harvest your carrots as soon as they mature.
Note: Never store carrots near pears or apples which will give off gasses that can make your carrots bitter.
Growing Organic carrots
Carrots are relatively easy to grow. You can also get more than one crop per season. I also used to harvest carrots in the middle of winter on the Oregon coast. They winter crop was successful as long as we did not get an unusually cold season.
Just remember, carrots are slow to germinate (1 to 3 weeks). As well, carrots will often germinate unevenly over a period of several weeks. Lightly water the carrots daily if the soil is dry in order to speed germination.
For a continual harvest, plant seeds three weeks through midsummer. Also, plant crops for fall harvest about 10 to 12 weeks before the first frost.
Here are the ideal growing conditions for producing bumper crop carrots:
- Grow carrots in loose soil. Your soil should be free of rocks and other barriers. That way the roots can grow straight and unrestricted. If there is a rock or barrier, the roots will fork and the carrots will be contorted.
- Carrots prefer a pH of 6.0 to 6.8 but can tolerate 5.5 to 7.5. They like moderate nitrogen. Too much nitrogen can cause root branching.
- If you have acidic soil, add organic lime to lower the acidity level.
Carrots need soil that is rich in organic matter. The carrot beds should have aged compost rich in potassium and phosphorus. These nutrients will keep the roots hardy and woody.
- Give the roots room to grow by thinning your seedlings early. Overcrowding will produce abnormal short roots. Keep the soil moist. You carrots will split if you allow them to dry out and then over water them.
- Always keep the top roots covered with soil. Otherwise your carrots will be bitter and have green shoulders.
- Root quality is best when soil temperatures are between 60° F to 70° F.
- To prevent diseases, rotate your crops. Never plant carrots in the same spot more than once every 3 years.
Note: It is believed that today’s modern orange carrot comes from natural cross pollination. If you plant different colored carrots, you might want to plant them on opposite sides of the garden to prevent cross pollination. One can never be too careful.
Harvesting & Storing
Harvesting: Generally carrots are ready to harvest 60-80 days after planting. However, harvesting time will vary with each variety.
On the other hand, all sizes of carrots are edible. Additionally, carrots will remain fresh in the soil for numerous months. This remains true even if the tops have been killed by frost. As long as you have well drained soil and straw or leaf mulch covering the carrots, they will survive colder temperatures.
To harvest, use a small trowel to dig them out of the soil. When digging, be careful by staying away from the plant so you don’t damage the carrot. Use a pitchfork if you are harvesting a big crop. Again, be careful digging and avoid stabbing your beautiful carrots.
However, the weather cannot be too temperate. If the winter is mild, carrots will continue to grow and become tough and woody.
If you decide to keep your carrots in the ground, make sure and mulch a foot or two for protection against the elements.
Carrots can also be stored in a root cellar for many months. Just place the carrots in a large container and pack them in lightly damp sawdust or sand. Make sure the container has ventilation to prevent mold and rot. Carrots can be stored in a cellar for up to 6 months under prime conditions. Ultimately, the temperature should be slightly above 32°F with 95% humidity.
Also, never store your carrots near fruit. The ethylene oxide gas from the fruit will make your carrots taste bitter. The fruit gases also makes your carrots ripen faster.
Storing your carrots in the fridge is also a great option. Although most refrigerators are warmer than 32°F and will less than 95% humidity, carrots will keep 2-3 months if they are prepped correctly. Here is how to prep your carrots:
Brush off most of the soil. Some soil is good, it helps prevent decay. Do not wash your carrots.
Allow the carrots to sit in the sun for a couple of hours. This helps the skin seal. Just do not allow the carrots to dry in the sun more than half a day.
Cut the tops off, close to the root.
When the carrots are dry, place them in a plastic bag with a few holes punched in it. Also, a lightly damp cloth or paper towel on the bottom of the vegetable try will increase the humidity.
Occasionally check your carrots to make sure they are not wet. Wet carrots quickly spoil.
Carrots can also be juiced, canned, dehydrated or frozen.
When the umbels of flowers start to turn brown and are dry, the seeds are ready.
Using pruning shears, cut off the flowers. The best seeds are from the first and second set of flowers.
Wait before removing the seeds from the flowers.
Bring the flowers indoors and allow additional drying time. Rub the flowers in your hands or in a sieve. The seeds should easily come off. Notice that the seeds have a beard. This is normal. The beard is removed in commercial seed for easier packing.
Note: It is not necessary to remove all the chaff to have a clean seed.
Place your seeds in a manila envelope, mesh or cloth bag, a jar or plastic container. The ideal container should be air tight. Store your carrot seeds in a cool dry place. The perfect temperature is about 59°F (15 °C). The seed should be good for up to three years.
For long term storage you can store your seeds in the refrigerator. Just be careful not to allow them to get wet.
Variety Packs on Amazon
There are a wide variety of carrot seeds on Amazon including different colored, non-GMO, organic and Heirloom. Happy Planting! Take a look:
Purple, orange and red carrots:: Tricolour roots via photopin (license)
Bundled purple, yellow and orange carrots: Colourful carrots via photopin (license)
Black, orange and yellow carrots: Carrots via photopin (license)
Carrots hugging: Carrot LOVE. via photopin (license)
Long yellow, white, orange and purple carrots: Carrots of Many Colors via photopin (license)
Carrots and parsnips: Borough Market via photopin (license)
Orange carrots: What’s Up Doc? via photopin (license)
Bright yellow and orange carrots: Beautiful Carrots via photopin (license)
Carrot flower: Wild carrot via photopin (license)