Popular Varieties: Autumn King, Nantes
Store At: Cool to avoid softness
Comes From: Temperate countries; England, France etc
Seasonality: All year, British season late summer to early summer but soon to be all year
Carrots are actually a cultivated species of Queen Anne's Lace, a common weed. Both plants originated in the Middle East before moving to Europe (see below).
Weed or not, carrots are a firm favourite in the garden, and something about them is just magical in the eyes of children (and donkeys and horses), and usually one of the first vegetables anyone grows when they're young. Easy to grow, the carrot is sometimes called a catch-crop - that is they can be grown between larger crops, because they're quicker to grow and harvest.
Carrots are not only fun to grow and eat, but excellent nutritionally, and full of beta-carotene (Vitamin A). Darker ones also contain anthocyanins, anti-cancer compounds.
Carrots are thought to be originally native to the Middle East, in particular Afghanistan, and possibly stretching as far west as the Mediterranean; it is believed that it was in these areas that the carrot was domesticated from the weed Queen Anne's Lace. They were cultivated by the Greeks and Romans, although carrots in these times were branched; not the cylindrical single root varieties we see today, and quite often purple in colour; this purple colouration is due to the presence of anthocyanin pigments in the skin. The ancient Greeks believed carrots had a high medicinal value, and used them in an attempt to cure many ailments, from marriage problems to snake bites; carrots do indeed have high nutritional and medical value.
The familiar orange varieties we see today, sometimes known as the Western carrot, are thought to have been cultivated in Asia around 1000 AD, although other reports place the hybridisation of the multi-coloured carrots into the orange one in Holland. From there they were taken to Spain by Moorish invaders in the 12th Century; at the same time they were rapidly being established as a popular food crop in India, China and Japan. They did not reach Europe until the middle ages, and England in the fifteenth century. Elizabethans had dual purposes for carrots; they not only ate them as a food source, but often used the feathery tops of the plants as decoration, particularly in hats.
Carrots were taken across the Atlantic to the Americas soon after their discovery, where it landed in Venezuela in the 1560s, moving into Brazil the following century. It reached North America in Jamestown, Virginia in 1609, planted by early colonists.
Carrots are genuinely multipurpose on several fronts. They can be boiled or steamed and eaten as vegetables, or grated or peeled and eaten as part of a salad. More unusually, they can also be baked, sautéed, pickled or glazed; roasted carrot is even used as an alternative to coffee! Carrot juice is high in nutrients, and a good wine was made from carrots in days gone past.
Carrot seeds have many purposes; they are aromatic and can be used to flavour/scent perfumes, diuretic (increase the urge to go to the toilet), and are stimulant amongst other things; they are also an aphrodisiac. They can be used to treat dropsy, chronic dysentery, kidney problems and worms. As a diuretic, carrots are good for people who suffer from gout, aiding in the disposal of uric acid which would otherwise crystallise, causing the pain of gout. Carrots help lower blood sugar, and are beneficial in preventing cancer, diabetes, dyspepsia, gout and heart disease.
Seed should be sown in long drills (rows) about 40cm apart, relatively thickly since germination is irregular. Once the seeds have germinated and reached sufficient size (usually one pair of true leaves), they should be thinned out to around 3cm apart. Carrots need a relatively large amount of moisture to grow.
Depending on the variety, carrots are ready to harvest anywhere between 60 and 150 days. They should be gently eased out of the ground to avoid damaging the root, and then eaten as quickly as possible!
Beware when growing carrots; they are very susceptible to attack by the carrot fly. The fly is attracted to a compound carrots produce, called chlorogenic acid which the larvae of the carrot fly require early in their development. There are many trusted ways to defeat carrot fly; popular methods include growing resistant varieties such as Fly Away, or covering the carrots with a fine fleece netting which prevents the fly from getting in. Other suggested methods are companion planting carrots with onions; carrots keep onion fly away from the onions, and the onions keep carrot fly away from the carrots.
- Newcrop factsheet on Carrots
- Commercial Carrot production
- General information on carrots
- Carrots on Wikipedia
There are four groups carrots fall into: Imperator with long tapering roots, Nantes with blunt uniformly shaped cylindrical roots, Danvers which have a conical or spherical shape, and Chantenay which are shorter but have large girth and a blunt rounded tip. Any variety harvested early is typically classed as a baby carrot and are usually sweeter and more tender.
A round stumpy variety, these bite-size carrots are ideal for difficult growing conditions, such as in containers, or bad soil (clay or stone soil).
Another classic variety, this is a good maincrop variety, with long, large high quality roots. Recommended for eating fresh or for winter storage.
One of the best varieties for the home gardener, Bangor products good quality crops of high yield; it's resistant against greening, cracking, and stores well.
This variety is shorter but have large girth and a blunt rounded tip. Any variety harvested early is typically classed as a baby carrot and are usually sweeter and more tender.
An old classic, this is a fast growing variety with superb cropping, it's suitable for many purposes, including early crops under glass.
Many carrots can be badly attacked by carrot fly; it can even devastate crops. But not Flyaway; the result of over 15 years of breeding, it contains low levels of a chemical called chlorogenic acid, which the larvae of the carrot fly need in their early stages of growth. Because of this, the crop is unattractive to the carrot fly, and even if they are attacked the larvae will soon die. A good shaped cylindrical variety, it has a succulent and sweet taste.
A unique variety, Purple Dragon has a deep purple coloured skin with orange to purple coloured flesh. They are best eaten raw; this retains more of the antioxidant and vitamin content of the carrot, of which Purple Dragon is extremely rich in.
The first yellow carrot available, Yellowstone has a pale yellow skin, smooth, with a sweet crunchy taste.
Serving Size:100g raw
|Calories: 41, Calories from Fat: 2|
|% Daily Value *|
|Total Fat 0g||0%|
| Saturated Fat 0g||0%|
|Total Carbohydrate 10g||3%|
| Dietary Fibre 3g||11%|
Vit A: 336% , Vit C: 10% , Vit D: 0% , Vit K: 0%
Iron: 2% , Calcium: 3%
Traces: Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate and Manganese, Vitamin K, Potassium
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.