Favorite Edibles: Carrots

Credit: World of Carrots Museum

Photo Credit: World of Carrots Museum

By Debra Knapke

Bugs Bunny did for carrots what Popeye the Sailor did for Spinach.bugs bunny book How many lip-locked, head-swelling children were coerced into eating their carrots by mothers cooing, “…but Bugs Bunny eats HIS carrots.” Mel Blanc (the voice of Bugs Bunny of Looney tunes fame)

Carrots are one of my favorite snacks, especially ones just harvested from the garden. I am envious of Michael’s success with his carrots – bragging rights, indeed – as the past few years have not been the best carrot-growing years for me. But, this is the year. I have: five varieties I’ve not tried, good compost, a dedicated spot and I will be planting in late May/early June to avoid the carrot maggot. Well, that’s the plan.

I decided to go back to basics and grow all orange varieties this year, except for ‘Atomic Red’. I am intrigued with the health claims for this lycopene-loaded carrot and its reputed deep, deep red color. The others are all faster maturing, smaller varieties. ‘Parisienne’ and ‘Romeo’ are small round carrots while ‘Little Finger’ and ‘Babette’ have slender, cylindrical forms. Another goal this year is to do more pickling; ‘Little Finger’ and ‘Babette’ will be perfect for pint-sized jars.

As I looked for ways to increase my success with carrots, in my books and on the web, I stumbled upon a website in England that is dedicated to the glory of the carrot. John Stolarczyk, founder and curator of the World Carrot Museum has gathered an impressive body of information that is useful and a bit quirky. I’m thinking I need to make a “flutenveg”, a variation of a set of pan pipes. I’m not sure of the tone quality it produces, but who cares? Laughter will cover any off-pitch note.

If you want a more comprehensive list of carrot cultivars by color, Edible Cols springtake a look at my picks in the “What to Plant” section in the latest Edible Columbus.  There is a carrot for everyone’s taste. There is still time to order seeds or visit your favorite garden center to pick up a few varieties. Below are a few quick notes that will help you be a successful carrot grower.

  • Carrot seeds are usually directly sown into the garden; the taproot is easily damaged if transplanted.
  • Sow carrot seeds shallowly; consistent moisture is important for good germination.
  • Longer roots need deeper, friable soil; if you have clay or rocky soils, choose shorter carrots.
  • A potential pest is the rust fly maggot; plant at the very end of May or early July to avoid the first generation of egg-laying flies or use row covers to exclude the fly.

And, if carrots are not your ideal vegetable, here is another point-of-view from the incomparable Mae West:

I never worry about diets. The only carrots that interest me are the number you get in a diamond.


Bragging Rights Prompt Efforts for Year-round Harvest

Simple Techniques to Reap Early Rewards 

In my part of the Midwest, planting potatoes, peas and other cold-tolerant vegetables on St. Patrick’s Day is a garden tradition best kept in the breaking. Usually, it’s way too cold and wet.

So imagine my delight from digging potatoes and  snipping a few tiny, tender collard and Asian greens on St. Patrick’s Day.

Boasting boosted agriculture

Some of you probably have even better harvests to brag about,  after all, bragging is a somewhat shameful but timeless element of gardening. I suspect one reason agriculture caught on with our paleo-forefathers may have been one-upping each other on the size and flavor of prehistoric veggies. Flowers might have factored in as well, assuming our paleo-foremothers were as delighted with a bunch of blossoms in a man’s hands as many women are today.

Times change but not bragging rights. Producing the first tomato of the summer prompts incredible antics by some growers: choosing  Early Girl or other can’t-wait-to-set-fruit varieties, coddling seedlings under grow lights, using mini greenhouses, and muttering mystical chants passed down from those first gardeners.

Enough about chest thumping. In the case of my potatoes, they aren’t the first of the season but the last of last season.

Secrets of success

My approach is  a mix of old and new. Grandpa Leach once described to me the vegetable pit on the hard-scrabble farm of his childhood. My memory isn’t clear on details, but the pit was something of an outdoor root cellar lined with straw. The vegetables were placed in layers and covered with straw and soil. Supposedly root veggies, cabbages, potatoes and some fruit stayed fresh in the cold, moist conditions. They dug food throughout the winter. (No small thing, considering the tales I heard of about walking to school through 4-feet deep snow from November through March.)

Being lazy, I skipped the excavation. I even skipped digging potatoes, which don’t keep very long in my cellar. Instead, mulch was piled thickly over the potato bed. A lot more mulch was needed this bitter winter — about half the potatoes dug St. Patrick’s Day were partly to totally mushy. The rest, however, are unscathed and delicious, as only home-grown Yukon Golds can be.

The collard greens were sown Aug. 15 and grew to micro-green size before serious cold weather arrived in early November. Immediately after seed planting, I secured floating row covers over the beds.

Protection service

Designed to thwart insects from accessing the greens, the row covers serve as something of a windbreak. I discovered this by accident a few years ago when I was too lazy to remove it after winter arrived. Even in the horrid winter of 2014, I picked a few leaves of collards and kale on St. Patrick’s Day. In milder winters, various greens can be picked all season, though growth slows to zip from mid-November to mid-February.

Can you top this?

Besides greens, I discovered the carrots, planted in late summer (tag is missing), came through just fine under the row cover. A couple dug on March 30 were sweet and crisp.

OK, that’s my story. What’s yours? Surely someone can top all this.

Inspiring ideas

For more inspiration about year-round harvests check out www.fourseasonfarm.com, site of Eliot Coleman’s  Maine vegetable farm that uses no heated greenhouses.



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