Let’s be real, a vegetable patch is incomplete without the carrots. Growing carrots from seed is great fun and there’s nothing more satisfying than pulling a juicy, long carrot from your very own garden. Carrots originate from the fertile foothills of Afghanistan, but thanks to their versatility and sweet taste they were transported around the world and have ended up in recipes and cuisines in every corner of the globe. Carrots are brilliant for roasting, adding to soups, or for simply snacking on raw. Follow this guide carefully and learn everything you need to know to successfully grow your very own carrots from seed to plate.
When we think of carrots, the colour orange immediately comes to mind; mostly because orange carrots are often the only variety available in supermarkets . Would you believe that, in reality, carrots come in all hues of white, red, purple and yellow? Let us name a few great varieties to grow in Australia:
Cosmic Purple: What a name! Cosmic Purple carrots have a bright purple skin and orange core and their flavour is just as vibrant, with a sweet, rich and caramel-like taste. These carrots grow fast and reach a size of up to 18 cm long.
Belgian White: This heirloom carrot is completely white except for the pale green top that grows out of the soil. Despite it’s pale appearance, it’s a flavoursome carrot that can be enjoyed cooked or raw. Belgian whites reach a length up to 25 cm long and grow well even in poor soils.
Atomic Red: Red skin, orange flesh and a green core, this carrot variety grows up to 20 cm long. Unlike other carrot varieties, atomic red carrots are most enjoyable when cooked. Not only does cooking these carrots deepen the red colour, it also improves their flavour.
All Seasons: The winner for any beginner, this classic orange carrot can be planted all year round! All seasons carrots are one of the most popular carrot varieties to grow thanks to its good disease resistance and full flavour.
Solar Yellow: Solar yellow carrots are extremely juicy and sweet. This variety is uniquely yellow and reaches a length of 18 cm. It can be enjoyed raw or cooked, and never loses its recognisable bright colour.
Carrots are simple to grow and require relatively little maintenance. Generally, they require a sunny or partially sunny spot in your garden. Sow carrot seedlings directly into the soil, leaving around 20 to 30 cm of space between each crop. Slugs unfortunately also love carrots, so you’ll want to protect them from being eaten up. The best way to do this is to grow your seedlings more out of reach, in a raised bed.
Not too hot, nor too cold, that’s the rule when it comes to climate. Take a look at when to sow your crop using the table below:
Soil: Carrots enjoy soft and relatively sandy soil with as few rocks or other hard obstructions as possible. Mixing some sand into your soil with keep them comfy whilst growing and help with drainage too. When planting carrots, compost and manure are a no go.
Mulch: Applying a thin layer of straw mulch after sowing your seeds can be a good deterrent for slugs as well as weeds, and will also keep your soil moist.
Water: Carrots love moist soil so make sure to frequently water your plants. However, as always, be careful not to overwater. Whilst your carrots are still developing their roots you’ll want to water them very gently, otherwise you may risk uprooting them.
Fertiliser: Carrots do fine without fertiliser, but if you want to speed up the process then we suggest you apply a small amount of liquid fertiliser every few weeks. Don’t over-fertilise your soil though, this can cause your carrots to split, ouch!
Companion plants: Sometimes, plants need friends too. Chives and spring onions make great companions and will protect your crop from carrot flies and other insects, who lay their larvae in the young seedlings and subsequently eat their way through the fresh roots.
An easy harvest, most carrots should be ready to harvest 12 to 18 weeks after sowing the seedlings (but check the seed packet for each variety). The size of the root that pokes out of the soil will tell the size and thickness of your carrot. Usually you can pull the leaves gently to release the roots and hey presto! If your carrots are large though, you might want to use a small garden fork to loosen up the soil and set your carrots free.
If prepared correctly, carrots can store for several months after being harvested. Before doing anything with your carrots, give them a quick rinse – soil and fertilizer don’t make for good flavour.
We all know that carrots store well in the fridge or freezer but if you want to get fun and flavoursome, you might want to try pickling them. Check out this handy recipe on pickling carrots. Another option for preserving your carrots is to dry them. Dry carrots can be great for stews, pasta sauces or even adding to carrot cake recipes. Follow this guide to dehydrate your carrots.
No matter how your carrots turn out, you’ll never run out of way to cook with them. Time to test some of our favourites recipes. This roasted carrot, squash and sweet potato soup for example will get you through the winter months. For something fresh, carrot and cumin salad is the ideal side to a curry. Or this harissa chicken with carrot, rice and quinoa pilaf recipe makes the perfect family dinner. We’ve had potato chips and sweet potato chips, have you ever tried carrot chips? Try making them at home yourself! And finally, if you’re feeling peckish for dessert, then why not try out this carrot cake recipe.
Lee Holmes: Crustless Vegetable Quiche
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Grow, Share, Eat: GARLIC