The green thumb is twitching at Home Farm Herbery and those of us who have a greenhouse or hot beds or even sunny window sills are starting our seeds indoors and during our spare time we peruse the many seed catalogs that come in about this time of year.
Carrots are not sown indoors, but the pictures always look good in those catalogs. Yet many of us often decide not to plant them because they are one of the supermarkets cheapest veggies offered. However, they are also one of those year round root vegetables that come about 3000 miles from the west coast to get to the east coast and they are usually grown by big farms that use a lot of pesticides or even chemically engineered seeds.
Carrots can easily be grown in small gardens. I prefer the raised bed method, filled with fertile well-worked soil and about two weeks before our last frost date I sow some carrots. If you live in cool climates you can continue planting every three weeks until midsummer. Then towards the end of summer you can begin to sow seeds for fall and winter carrots 10 to 12 weeks before your average first fall frost.
When you are ready to plant and if you have raised beds make sure that the soil is at least 12 inches deep. You start by loosening the soil and thoroughly mixing in about 1 inch of mature compost or your organic fertilizer. This year I am going to get some works to do my composting and try making vermicompost.
Prepare the planting bed by loosening the soil to at least 12 inches deep. Thoroughly mix in a 1-inch layer of mature compost or a half-inch layer of vermicompost which what earthworms leave behind and you can be sure this is great compost for carrots.
When you sow your seeds make sure you sow them about a quarter inch deep and 2 inches apart, in rows spaced at least 10 inches apart since carrots do well in double or triple rows. As the seedlings come up thin your seedlings to 4 to 6 inches apart, depending on the variety’s mature size.
I love all kinds of carrots and especially the kinds that are hard to find in our local markets. Here at Home Farm Herbery we sort of specialize in “dickering” around with organic and heirloom carrots and grow several different kinds and we also sell the seeds that come from them.
One of my personal favorite is the Paris Market Carrot (Daucus carota) which is a Nineteenth-century French heirloom. These are early round red-orange carrots, growing 1-2" in diameter, uniform and very sweet. I like the fact that it does well in shallow or rocky soil and it even can be grown in containers. These carrots are highly sought after by gourmet restaurants and a great seller at markets. They mature in 50-68 days. Consider getting some seed for your child and let them have a nice project growing some of these cuties in a big container.
Another carrot we have had good experience with is the Danvers Heirloom Carrot produces 7 to 7 ½ inches long, 2 to 2 ½ inches across carrots that taper to blunt and they are uniform interior color. We thought they were very tender and very sweet. This carrot stores well. Since a lot of our soil in KY is clay we know this does an outstanding job in heavier soils. It takes about 70 days to Maturity.
Another fun carrot to grow is the Little Finger variety is very early carrot that grows 4 inch cylindrical roots. Tender, sweet midget variety can be densely planted and they mature in 55 days. This is also a great carrot for a kid’s container project.
The Scarlet Nantes Carrot (Daucus carota) (aka Early Coreless) is another easy to grow carrot. It is an heirloom carrot and dates to the 1850s as its original seed was developed by Vilmorin in France. These carrots have cylindrical roots which are 7" long with blunt tips. It has a fine-grained bright red-orange flesh which is nearly coreless. We enjoy its great flavor which is sweet and brittle. These are really good when used as baby carrots. We found them to be excellent for freezing and juicing. Plus this carrot is widely adapted and stores well. It matures in 65-75 days.
Once you have sown and grown your carrots and let us not forget weeding, it will soon be time to harvest your spring-sown carrots and you simply pull or dig them when the roots reach mature size and show rich color. You will find that the taste improves as carrots mature. However, do not leave mature carrots in warm soil any longer than necessary. I have found that raised beds help to eliminate the many critters such as the hundreds of rabbits who live rent free at Home Farm Herbery and who like carrots.
If you sow carrots in the late summer to mature in cool fall soil, these can be left in the ground longer, but dig them out before the ground freezes to preserve their quality.
Always remove the carrot tops, leaving about a half inch of the green part to prevent moisture loss, rinse clean, and store in a refrigerator or cold root cellar. All the varieties I have mentioned will keep for several months in the bottom drawer of your fridge. Carrots also may be canned, pickled, dried or frozen. We even dehydrate them here at Home Farm Herbery. They are great to throw into soups.
Carrots are really good raw and great steamed; just don’t cook the heck out of them or any veggie for that matter. All veggies have good and bad points and here are the ones for carrots.
The good point is that carrots are very low in Saturated Fat and Cholesterol. They are also a good source of Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate and Manganese, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K and Potassium. One serving of carrots has between 25 and 50 calories depending on the size serving or whether you add things to them.
The bad point is that a large portion of the calories in carrots come from sugars.
Did you know that carrots can be traced back about 5,000 years through historical documents and art work? No one seems to know exactly when the first carrots appeared because many people mistook them for parsnips, a close relative of the carrot.
When we think of carrots we tend to think of them as only being orange, but they can also be white, yellow, red, and purple.
For those of you who are Bugs Bunny fans you may be surprised to learn that Mel Blanc, the voice of the iconic cartoon character Bugs Bunny, reportedly did not like carrots!
Last but not least let us not forget Carrot Cake!
Carrot cake is always a favorite at Home Farm and one of the best carrot cake recipes is a Betty Crocker recipe that I have been using for years and I will share it with you.
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 large eggs
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups grated carrot
1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
1 (3 1/2-ounce) can flaked coconut
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
Buttermilk Glaze or Cream Cheese Frosting (see below)
Line 3 (9-inch) round cake pans with wax paper; lightly grease and flour wax paper. Set pans aside.
Stir together first 4 ingredients.
Beat eggs and next 4 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Add flour mixture, beating at low speed until blended. Fold in carrot and next 3 ingredients. Pour batter into prepared cake pans.
Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
Drizzle Buttermilk Glaze evenly over layers; cool in pans on wire racks 15 minutes. Remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks. Spread Cream Cheese Frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake.
Here is the recipe for the Buttermilk Glaze that I found in Southern Living in 1997.
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Bring first 5 ingredients to a boil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Boil, stirring often, 4 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla.
Here is the recipe for the cream cheese frosting that I also found in Southern Living in 1997.
3/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
3 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add powdered sugar and vanilla; beat until smooth.
I guess by now you know I really like carrots and I even like to paint pictures of them when I work in my art studio.
Tread the Earth Lightly