While carrots are one of the top 10 most economically important vegetable crops in the world, they also are one of the most popular vegetables to grow in home gardens-and for good reason. Carrots are delicious, nutritious, versatile, and with just a little bit of know-how, this root crop is easy to grow.
The ancestor to the modern day carrot is believed to have originated in Afghanistan and was purple, scrawny, and pungent. Over time, cultivation by Greeks and Romans resulted in roots that were plumper, tastier, and came in shades of purple, red, and black. It wasn’t until the late 16th or early 17th century that the orange, appetizing carrots that we know today were bred by the Dutch in Europe.
It is “root” to tell a lie: While Vitamin A that is derived from Beta Carotene found in orange carrots does aid in overall eye health, you won’t be able to have full-fledged night vision from eating an abundance of carrots, as some have purported. Your skin, however, CAN turn yellow from eating an abundance of carrots! Not to worry though, the yellowing will go away after a few weeks as long as you cut down on the carrot intake.
Basic Types and Variety/Series Names
Carrots (Daucus carota) are members of the Apiaceae family, which also includes culinary plants such as anise, celery, coriander (cilantro), dill, and parsnips. They are biennials, meaning that they will flower in the second year of growth, but are typically grown as annuals (grown and harvested in the same year). There are several different carrot types and they are primarily divided up by shape. The following are some of the more well-known types, along with their characteristics:
Chantenay-Conical, triangular shaped roots with broad shoulders and rounded tips. Sweet flavor makes it good for eating fresh. Chantenay varieties:
Miniature/Baby-Either small round roots (also called Planet-types) or cylindrical and short. Myth debunked: Baby carrots that are purchased in a bag at the grocery are actually made from long, skinny carrots that have been cut. Miniature/Baby varieties:
Carrots are easy to grow from seed and perform best when directly sown into a garden bed or patio container. National Garden Bureau Members not only provide great products, but great growing information, too. Here are links to some of their websites that explain how to grow carrots:
By The Espoma Company,
Photograph courtesy of The Espoma Company
Seeing tiny seedlings bloom into amazing plants full of color is the best part about gardening, and the reward for all the hard work. It's nice to be able to enjoy those rewards indoors, too, using the flowers in arrangements. It's easy to bring the essence of the outdoors inside. All you need is a cutting garden.
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