Carrots- Seed to Table

Carrots in my house are one of the essential ingredients to cooking anything good.  They are so versatile I seem to cook them in anything, even in eggs.  Yes, I did say eggs.  The next time you are cooking up an omelet, while cooking your green peppers, onions, tomatoes and garlic toss a few carrot slices thinly and you will be surprised at how the sweet flavor adds a yummy touch of splendor to your eggs.  Of course I am the kind of cook that throws in the pot whatever I have in the garden.  Could you imagine soup without carrots?  Of course it seems carrots are always in the garden, as we have two good growing seasons in Central Texas.  Carrots are also a great keeper in the fridge.  They also dehydrate, freeze and can well. So won’t you try growing some today.

Growing Conditions

Carrots love cool weather.  As a matter of fact they are one of the crops that you can throw in the ground as soon as it can be worked.  They only take about 65 to 75 days to mature depending on the variety that you plant. The optimal temperature for carrots is between 60 and 70 degrees.  Carrots prefer a Ph between 6.0 and 6.8. Carrots demand an ample amount of moisture.  If you do not supply them with an ample amount of moisture they will be woody.  On the other hand when the temperatures dip below 55 degrees for extended periods of time the carrots will turn pale in color and just get longer and skinnier.  You will notice the carrots at the farmers markets in the spring are paler in color as they have been in the ground over the winter!

Companion plants for carrots are radish, peas, sage, lettuce, onions, leeks, rosemary, wormwood, tomatoes, marigolds, and scorzonera.

Do not grow carrots near fruit or nut trees, grapes,dill and parsnips.

Planting your carrots along with radishes help to mark your carrots and suppress the weeds.

Try planting two or three rows and mulching it with newspaper and straw in between the rows to keep out the weeds.

You want to make sure that the area you are planting your carrots in is free of stones and debris or your carrots will end up forked or misshapen.  Carrots do not like heavy or clay soils.  If you have heavy or clay soils it is good to mix a good amount of compost in with the soil to lighten it up.  Carrots also grow well in raised beds.  Wherever you are growing these tasty morsels make sure to dig your beds deeply first so that the carrots will be able to reach down deep and grow deep roots, because after all that is what the carrot is!

Mix a low nitrogen fertilizer in with the soil before planting the seeds.  Always use a low nitrogen fertilizer or the roots of the carrots will develop fine little hairs. Plant the carrot seeds 1/4 inch deep, and about 2 inches apart and then use a watering can to water them in.  Keep the soil moist for the seeds to germinate.  Don’t loose heart, they may take 10 days or longer to germinate.  Fertilize again when the carrots are three to four inches and once again when the carrots are six to eight inches tall.

When the shoulders of the carrots become exposed cover them up with soil so they do not turn green.

When your carrots are mature loosen the soil with a digging fork so you do not break the roots.  The lift or pull them out.  Be careful not to leave them in them in the ground too long as there are many bugs that like to eat these tasty morsels just as much as you do! You can leave summer sown carrots in the ground longer if you remove them before it freezes.

History

Amazingly enough our first carrot was purple! And it originated in Afghanistan about 5000 years ago. In the 1500’s the mutant yellow carrots were bread to form the wonderful sweet orange carrots that we know today.  by the 1600’s carrots came to north america.

Varieties

There are five main varieties of carrots here in North America.  Of course there is species crossover, however I will cover the basics.

Nantes – Sweet and crisp 5-7 inch roots . Does not store well. Loose, sandy soil or raised beds. 55-70 days in spring; 60-75 in fall

Chantenay – Rich sweet flavor, stores well. broad shoulders and rounded tips.  clay soil or fertile loam. 55-70 days in spring; 70-110 in fall

Imperator -Slightly fibrous texture, long tapered roots with stocky shoulders, stores well. deep sandy loam. 55-100 days in spring, 80-110 in fall.

Danvers– Shorter and stockier, may have yellow core, stores well, good for juicing. Deep sandy loam. 55-100 days in spring, 80-110 in fall.

Baby & Miniature – Sweet roots are less than 5 inches long, round, cylindrical or tapered. Does not store well. 50-60 days in spring, 60-70 in fall.

Pests and Diseases

Leafhoppers plant feeding insects from the family Cicadellidae.

Wireworms – beneficial nematodes and garlic extract are your cures for these feisty little critters.

Carrot Rust Worm Larvae – Do not leave in the ground too long or the carrots will be exposed to carrot rust worm larvae. Use floating row covers.

Aster Yellow –A viral disease caused by insects, primarily the aster leafhopper. There is no cure for the aster yellows so destroy your plant if you have this disease.

Leaf Spot – A bacterial disease treat seeds at 122o F for 25 minutes.

Soft Rot – A bacterial disease that causes soft watery decay.

Root Knot Nematodes -Interplanting your carrots with a lot of marigolds will help prevent the attack from root know nematodes.  It also helps to add diatomaceous  earth to the soil and mix in well at planting time.

Cooking

Of course you have enjoyed carrots raw and enjoyed their sweet flavor.  For and extra special treat try juicing them, the drink is super sweet and delicious.  If you like it a little more savory, juice it with greens and add some tomatoes for added flavor.

Carrots are lovely sauteed, pickled, or steamed.  Refrigerator type pickles that are made out of carrots are very good as they are sweet and sour at the same time.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: