Everything you always wanted to know about carrots

Q: Where can I find information on the most popular carrot-playing musicians available for hire? Oh, and I was quite embarrassed last Carrot Sunday to not remember the correct rhyme to recite while digging carrots. Any suggestions?

A: Go to the World Carrot Museum, of course.

While researching carrot varieties for my winter seed orders, serendipity brought me to the (virtual) door of this essential resource. Clicking through the interactive floor plan I found Russian stacking dolls featuring bunnies of diminishing sizes, all holding carrots; recipes for carrot burgers, carrot pesto slice (a baked lasagna dish), and Gajjar halvah; an illustrated history of carrots in medieval manuscripts.

man digging carrots

From Tacuinum Sanitatis,circa 1400. The Latin text reports that pastinace stimulates sexual intercourse but slows down digestion, and that the purple type, ripe in winter, is the best.

I had been surfing the web in an attempt to connect carrot variety names with shape, length and characteristics. It turns out that a bit of confusion over carrot types is well earned: there are currently several hundred varieties of cultivated carrots. (Carrots are members of the Apiaceae family which includes parsley, celery, parsnips and several aromatic herbs.) The drawing below was one of the better references I found for different carrot shapes. Although it betrays a British/European bias, it illustrates some of our more popular types including Nantes, Danvers, Imperator and Chantenay.

Diagrams of Carrot Root Shapes

Carrots are a cool weather crop so most varieties do well in our climate, if you take care to keep the soil moist long enough for the seeds to sprout. As carrot seed can take up to three weeks to germinate, this can be the most trying part of growing carrots, especially if you are sowing seed during the summer for a fall crop. Covering them with floating row cover or a light sprinkling of grass clippings can help avoid drying and crusting. Some gardeners even lay down newspaper or boards to hold moisture; the key is to remove these barriers before the seeds sprout.

By the way, if you do happen to be looking for a vegetable-playing duo, these two would perk up any event!

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2 Comments on “Everything you always wanted to know about carrots”

  1. tootightmike says:

    We plant two types; one for summer harvest, and one with strong storage characteristics. The summer carrots last nicely in the refrigerator until maybe November. The storage carrots are packed in damp sand, in 5 gallon pails. These pails are either carried to a cold cellar, or in our case buried deep in the sandbox, and covered with a few bags of leaves.
    They come out of storage as needed, and are as perfect in April as they were in September.

  2. Ellen Beberman says:

    @ttm – Care to share which varieties you plant? I”m partial to Mokum for sweetness and reliability during the spring and summer, but I don’t have a favorite storage carrot.

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