We just love growing carrots. You can pull a carrot from the ground, give it a quick rinse in a nearby puddle, and munch away while working in the garden. An instant snack, if you will. We have found that our goats also like carrots, and we have a special little garden of carrots just for them.
I don’t care how much you scrub your store-bought carrots, they just don’t have the same flavor as home grown, just like potatoes.
It is believed that carrots were domesticated in or around Afghanistan or Asia. The nice orange carrots we know today were cultivated by the Dutch in the 17th century.
Our first two years trying to grow carrots were abysmal. The problem was in the sowing. We have made great strides in all aspects of our gardening, including carrots. We firmly believe that we’ve improved the soil in the garden quite a bit, adding a lot of compost, getting rid of a lot of weeds and rocks.
We learned that carrots love the cooler temperatures of spring and fall. We also found that leaving them in the ground until just before the first hard frost gives a not as great taste. So now we harvest during late summer, right about now, for the best flavor.
One of my biggest mistakes was not thinning enough. I’ve always liked to sow heavy, and then thin after germination. But I just could never quite get my carrots thinned enough. Finally, we invested in a four row pin point seeder with which to sow, and that alone made all the difference in the world. But carrot seeds are very dark and very small. You never know if you had good coverage with sowing. To help in that regard we like to use pelleted seed. The white seeds are easily seen. Between the seeder and the pelleted seed the spacing is just right, and now our carrots grow to the correct size.
We like to sow our carrots, a variety known as Napoli, during late April or by the first of May. They germinate well, and we thin to two inches apart. As the plants grow taller still we thin again at four inches tall. Weeding is especially important for carrots. They do not like to be crowded.
You will probably also see some cousins of the carrot, Queen Annes Lace. They like growing together, and with a little bit of practice you can spot the wild carrot and remove them. We actually like growing a few of the wild variety, and we know someone who cultivates Queen Annes Lace. Don’t confuse it with Poison Hemlock, which people have died from eating. If you live in Maine you probably won’t come across Poison Hemlock, as it mostly grows in the south. The way to differentiate is that Queen Annes Lace smells like carrot, and the root is hairy. The root is quite edible and has a high iron content and the stems are edible as well, like carrot stems. In fact, if you were lost in the woods and only had rabbit to eat, try to find Queen Annes Lace for its iron content, which rabbit lacks. Getting back to carrot,…
Harvesting of carrots can begin anytime. We start sneaking a few out when they are four inches long. I just harvested ours, and they are about eight inches in length. Last year we grew 63 pounds and this year about 50, all from one package of seeds that cost about $5. We cook from scratch exclusively, and this amount will take us through the entire year. Last years harvest just ran out on July 15 this year, right about the time when we could begin pulling some new ones. My goal is to always grow enough for the year.
We store our carrots in the root cellar. We use a large plastic tote and line them up looking a little like sardines, and we layer them with wet sand. It’s really that simple.
A lot of folks can their carrots, or freeze them, but we like keeping them in their raw state. Either way, it is a good feeling knowing we have that food waiting for us.
If you cook from scratch at all, soups and such like we do, carrots are essential.