Domestic carrots have changed a lot since they were first bred from wild carrots. Although they can still cross with wild ones, they are very different. The wild carrot root was refined by farmers thousands of years ago to create a large, smooth, sweet root vegetable. This new vegetable was an improvement from the wild carrot root, which was wiry, thin, hairy, forked, and often bitter.
Domestic carrots were originally grown in Afghanistan in the 10th century. These carrots were usually different colors, like the carrots that are sold in catalogs today. They were soon traded and moved to other countries. Most carrots today are a bright orange color because the Dutch dominated the carrot-breeding world.
Colonists brought carrots with them to the New World. Thomas Jefferson, our third President, grew several varieties of carrots at Monticello. He was an avid gardener.
12 Popular Carrot Varieties to Grow
Carrots are a versatile vegetable that can be used in any garden. Different varieties of carrots come in different colors, so you can easily find one that you like! Here are some popular varieties with different attributes:
Bolero peppers grow to a slightly tapered 7-8 inches and come in bright orange. Farmers love carrots that are resistant to most pests and blight, unlike other carrot varieties which can be damaged by poor soil conditions or heavy clay.
Danvers heirloom carrots have a rich flavor and dark orange flesh, unlike their cultivated counterparts. Other plants would have trouble growing in heavy clay soil because of bad drainage or pests, but these plants do well.
The Lunar White variety of oyster is one of the most common, offering a mild taste and bright white flesh. This plant can produce up to 20 pounds in one season! Little Finger carrots, which are around four inches long, will be crunchy and sweet throughout the winter months. If you would like something large, Oxheart can grow as high as 24″ tall. However, each carrot weighs more than one pound and each lobe reaches 8-10″. Nantes are small carrots that have blunt ends and sugar-sweet flavor perfect for shorter growing seasons because they mature about 4 weeks early than other types; these little guys reach 16-24 inches.
Paris Market Carrot: You’re forgiven for confusing this carrot variety with a radish. It is short and squat in stature, and can tolerate rocky soil conditions.
This pale yellow heirloom reaches about eight inches high. It is light-tasting yet sweet enough on its own!
If you’re looking for a way to add some fun to your summer salads, try using purple dragon vegetables. These brightly colored veggies are sure to give your meal a boost of flavor.
The most common orange carrot you’ll find at your local grocery store is the Imperator, which also happens to taste great when harvested in late fall. This particular type of grape became popular with commercial growers because it has a high sugar content, making them the sweetest variety after being exposed to frost.
Manpukuji carrots are Japanese varieties that have roots that are over two feet long! They grow quickly, so they need fertile soil for the best taste results. This can make harvest difficult because of their length!
This black carrot is great for your health because it is full of antioxidants. This vegetable is so juicy and delicious, that even after cooking the Black Nebula, its hue remains!
Selecting varieties to grow
What kind of soil do you have? If the soil is heavy clay or hasn’t been worked well, Imperator-type carrots with long, slender roots aren’t a good option. These vegetables will not develop properly or they will break when you go to harvest them. Often you’ll end up with crooked, hairy roots. Choose a carrot that is suited for your heavy soil, such as Danvers Half Long or Chantenay. I grew Danvers Half Long carrots in my first-year garden back in Sturgeon Lake, Minnesota. We had a deep layer of red clay that had never had any organic material worked into it. I was able to successfully grow a crop of carrots that I had planted. I couldn’t get the carrots out using any method. I brought the tractor and single-bottom plow into the garden to plow my carrots out of the ground.
don’t have to worry about the length of time they take to mature unless you want to store carrots over winter. Choose a carrot variety that takes a long time to mature so you will be able to dig them up before a freeze.
It is difficult to plant carrot seeds because they are tiny. Some catalogs offer pelleted seeds as an alternative to traditional seeds if you are concerned about even planting. The carrot seed is encased in a white clay pellet, which is much larger and easier to see and handle. You can reduce stress and the need for later thinning by planting them evenly. Pelleted seeds are a great investment for people who have poor eyesight or who are impatient. You shouldn’t just randomly sprinkle seeds down a row without any planning because it’ll be a waste of seeds and then it’ll be difficult to thin them out later.
Preparing the soil
Many people plant their carrot seeds early because they can survive frost and freezing. The soil often hasn’t been worked up enough and well. The soil should be worked up so there are no clods, clumps, or chunks. The soil should be smooth, loose, and fine. Mix in a bit of well-rotted compost.
We don’t plant our carrots ultra early. We wait till the area is dry and then till it several times, not only breaking up any clods or soil clumps but killing tiny, germinating weeds in the process. This pays huge dividends later on. Carrots will germinate best in soil temperatures that are around 55 to 80 degrees. In as little as a week, carrots will start popping up at those temperatures. But at cooler temperatures, it may take three weeks. Wait until the ground warms up to sow your carrot seeds.
Planting your carrot seeds
After the soil temperature has warmed up, you should mark your rows with sticks pounded into the ground on either end. There should be a sturdy string stretched between the sticks. Use a hoe to make a shallow trench that is about ½ inch deep. The trench should be made under the string and down the row.
Hold your hand close to the soil and drop the seeds one at a time. Spacing the seeds about an inch or two apart Sprinkle a few seeds into your hand and drop them one at a time into the soil, spacing them about an inch or two apart. Space the seeds out evenly in your row, with each seed about ¼ inch from the next one. Work your way down the row slowly, putting all of the seeds in the trench. Then go back and cover the seed with about ½ inch of soil. With the back of the hoe, gently pat the soil over the seeds and then press down firmly. Do not press the soil too firmly, as this will make it difficult for newly germinating seeds to break through the surface.
Leave your row marker in place once you have planted until germination occurs, so you know where your row is. Then water your row. Water the carrot rows regularly so the soil stays moist until the carrots are up and growing well.
One of the most important things people fail to do when growing carrots is to ensure they are evenly germinated. Remember that the seeds are very small. They will die if they dry out for even a few hours while they are germinating. The ground should be moist, but not too wet where water is standing.
If you have an older garden or a well-cared-for raised bed, you can plant your carrots in a row wide bed. This makes great use of garden space. Make sure to mark your carrot rows, leaving four inches between each row if you want to plant more than one. I find it best to have three rows close together so you can thin and weed easily from both sides.
Care of your carrots
After your carrots have sprouted, you will see some small plants with two leaves growing in a line. The leaves are narrow and flat, with pointed tips pointing in different directions. These are your long-awaited carrots! Don’t stop watering now. Folks often fail to water their carrots properly because they stop watering them once they see new growth. It is important to keep the soil evenly watered so that the plants do not dry out.
The third most common reason that carrots fail is because of weeds. Carrot seedlings are very small and fragile, and cannot handle weeds at all at this stage. It is important to keep the area around your carrot plants free of weeds. Weeding your carrot rows involves picking up each tiny seedling weed and placing it in a bucket so it won’t spread to other areas of your garden. But in the end, it will be worth it as you will harvesting a fresh carrot or two in just a couple of months. It can be time-consuming to remove weeds from newly-germinated carrot seedlings, but it will be worth it when you harvest fresh carrots in a couple of months. But it’s worth it, come harvest time.
You should thin your baby carrots when they have two sets of ferny leaves. Now I absolutely hate thinning carrots. I feel like I’m throwing away food. I didn’t thin my carrots at first because I felt bad for them, but I quickly learned that it was necessary. I never got a row of big carrots as Mom grew. I started thinning the carrots so they would have more room to grow, and soon they were growing really well.
Carrots cannot be transplanted successfully; I tried that method as well. Just take them out and throw them between the rows. After tossing the rest of the carrots, you will want them to end up an inch apart.
After the carrots have grown to be six or eight inches tall and are strong, I spread straw or grass hay that doesn’t have seeds over the rows. If you don’t want to grow weeds or grass in your garden, make sure the area is free of seeds.
You can go back later in the summer and harvest a few carrots for baby carrots and snacks by removing every other carrot down the row. If you stop harvesting carrots when some are still small, the others will have more room to grow.
How to Harvest Carrots
The ideal thickness for a carrot being harvested is somewhere around the thickness of a human finger. The carrots will be more tender if you harvest them now rather than waiting until they mature. They will also be sweeter after frost has hit your garden.
Farm more easily and reduce physical exhaustion during harvest time by using a digging fork first. This will loosen the soil so that vegetables can be pulled up by their foliage and come out clean without any dirt sticking to them.
If you have any leftover crops from this harvest season that need to be covered before winter, use an 18-inch layer of leaves.
This is an ideal hobby for someone who loves gardening, as planting carrots is the perfect activity to undertake this season. Biennial plants typically grow for two years and will produce seed clusters during the second year if left in the ground.
Once you pluck the brown seed heads out of the soil, you can store them indoors until winter comes around again. This way, you’ll be able to plant more next spring!
Storing Carrots for Future Use
Carrots are tough vegetables that will stay fresh for months when stored properly. Twist the greenery off the top of the onion about half an inch down, then wash the onion before storing it in an airtight bag in the fridge. If the next step isn’t followed within a few hours, the substance will become weak. Place carrots in bins of moist sand or dry sawdust, making sure the temperature is 32-40 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep the carrots away from fruits like apples and pears, as the ethylene gas produced by these fruits will turn carrots brown over time if they are left nearby.
You should only freeze carrots that are fresh and crisp, and that have reached full maturity. Limp, old, partly-dried carrots never freeze well.
First wash the carrots, scrubbing away any clinging soil. Cut the top off the carrot, removing any green parts, about an inch into the carrot. This green results from the carrot being exposed to sunshine as it grows and pushing out of the ground. Wipe off any rootlets. Scrub with a green nylon pot scrubber or peel. Unpeeled carrots have more flavor and are more nutritious than peeled carrots.
Cut the carrots into small pieces and put them in a bowl of cold water. Place a pot of water on the stove to boil and have a bowl of ice water ready. After boiling the carrots for five minutes to blanch them, drain and rinse them with cold water to stop the cooking process. Carrots should be plunged into boiling water to stop enzyme activity and kill any bacteria that may ruin the flavor.
Pack the cooled carrot slices into a freezer container, such as a freezer ziplock bag. Remove as much air as possible. If you don’t remove most of the air from the bag, the carrots won’t stay fresh in the freezer. A Foodsaver vacuum packer is a great way to keep carrots tasting fresh for months when stored in the freezer. Carrots that have been frozen will stay good in your freezer for between 9 and 14 months.