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Daucus carota subspecies sativus
Why Eat Carrots?
Carrots are nutritional heroes. They store a gold mine of nutrients including many important vitamins and minerals.
The carrot gets its bright orange color from beta-carotene. The the body converts to vitamin A. No other vegetable or fruit contains as much carotene as carrots do.
The simplest way to eat carrots is raw. Carrots can be easily digested without cooking... BUT, beta-carotene is not destroyed by cooking.
In fact, cooking breaks down fiber making the carrot's nutrients and sugars more available... cooking makes them taste sweeter!
The Basics of Growing Carrots
Spring, summer, fall, and possibly winter.
Carrots like it cool. Most root crops do. Their seeds germinate at soil temperatures that range from 50 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
Carrots are somewhat hardy. They will withstand cold weather and a light frost. You can directly plant the seeds into the ground as early as three weeks before the last frost. You can plant them in the heat of the summer, but they will appreciate a little afternoon shade.
Carrots do best in light, well-drained soil...
Containers are a good choice for carrots.
A carrot is a "root" vegetable.
Roots grow UNDER the ground... so it follows that the the condition of the ground... er-r-r-r ....make that "soil" is the most important part of growing carrots.
Remove all rocks and stones. Lumpy soil w1ll make lumpy carrots!
Lots of sun...but not lots of heat!
In the heat of the summer, they can tolerate a little afternoon shade.
YOU HAVE 2 CHOICES:
PLANT IN ROWS: Sow the seeds thinly on a sunny, dry day in rows called "drills" about 1/4 inch deep, covering the seeds once in place. Space rows 1 to 1 1/2feet apart.
SCATTER THE SEEDS: Mix the tiny seeds (carrot seeds are one of the tiniest seeds you will ever plant) with a handful of sharp sand and scatter the seeds on top of the soil. The sand will make it easier to see where the seeds are landing. If you don't have sand, use coffee grounds. Cover with a light, damp layer of compost. Once the first leaves appear, thin to about 2-inches apart so there is enough room to grow.
Make sure to keep the seeds MOIST when first planted....not soaking wet... just moist so they have enough water to germinate. Germination can be a little erratic (meaning they won't all start growing at the same time) so be patient and make sure you do not let the soil dry out.
Carrots need a good supply of water, in soil that drains well. The will rot in puddles and dry out if too parched.To successfully grow carrots, keep the soil moist at all times. Reduce watering when carrots are almost mature, so that they don't grow too quickly and crack.
Check you variety for the average time it takes your carrots to mature. It is usually 60-75 days. But don't forget that as you thin out your carrots to make room for bigger roots, you can start eating them.
To harvest, it is best to pull the carrot rather than the leaves. You may need to loosen soil to pull carrots without breaking off tops.
Trim off foliage to extend storage time. Layer roots in a container and store in cool, moist conditions.
Rabbits, of course! And mice like the greens on top.
Carrot flies can also be a pest. They fly low, so if you put a barrier wall around he carrots that is about 2 feet high, the flies may not get in. Planting lots of chives in and around of the carrots will make it harder for the carrot flies to fins them but the rule of thumb for companion planting is that you need as many "companions" as the plants you want to protect. Covering the row with a row protector is always an option. Pick one that lets in light and water but not critters.
HOW A CARROT SEED GROWS:
Carrot seeds send up the cotyledon of the carrot seed. The cotyledon is part of the seed embryo, and is the first set of "leaves" to be visible above ground. The cotyledon is not really a true leave, but are actually part of the seed itself. As the seedling grows, the true leaves l develop. These leaves are often feathery and range from light to medium green in color.
Carrots are G-R-E-A-T !
ALL THOSE RABBITS CAN'T BE WRONG
A Little Carrot History....
The carrot was well known to the ancient Greeks and Romans but most likely as a purple or yellow root. In early use, carrots were grown for their aromatic leaves and seeds, not their roots. Some relatives of the carrot such as fennel and dill are still grown for their fragrance.
A CARROT LEGEND
During World War II, word spread that eating carrots helped pilots to see enemy bombers attacking at night. That was a lie to cover the real story. (The British government didn't want the Germans to find out that it wa their new radar system finding the planes.)
One pilot was nicknamed "Cats Eyes" because of his ability to spot his prey in the dark. His keen night eyesight was chalked up to his ìlove of carrots. And so a legend began. People all over England started growing carrots in their Victory gardens.
For more information, try these links....
- University of Illinois Extension has a lot of information
- Carrot Gardening Forum
- All About Growing Carrots from Mother Earth News
- Gardening Know How