Depending on who you ask, it’s the Year of the Sheep, or the Year of the Goat, or the Year of Soils. But I’m declaring 2015 “The Year of the Carrot.” We eat a lot of carrots in my household, and while I’ve always grown them in my garden, this year I’m going to grow way more than usual. I’m aiming to increase the number of varieties I grow, as well as do a better job of staggering the plantings to ensure I have roots to harvest from mid-May all the way through next March. In other words, I want to harvest 10 months of fresh, colorful carrots.
I’m going to sow my first row of carrot seed in a cold frame in late March, then follow with new row every week, all summer long. The first few weeks will fill the cold frame, as will any plantings that take place after late July. The rest will be seeded directly into the garden. Because we eat so many carrots, I don’t feel bad dedicating so much space to a single crop. I’ve discovered that sometimes it’s important to be willing to sacrifice the square footage of less-adored crops, such as turnips, rutabagas and eggplants, and dedicate it instead to the crops we eat more of.
I’m also promising myself that I’ll religiously thin my carrot seedlings this year. I’m not always good at this important step, but it’s critical for developing long, straight roots.
Here are some of the carrots I’m excited to grow this year:
1. Scarlet Nantes
This is my stand-by carrot variety. I grow it in my garden every year because it produces consistently-sized carrots that are sweet and do not get pithy when over-mature. It’s my son’s favorite carrot for fresh eating straight out of the garden.
2. Sugarsnax 54
This is the longest carrot I plan to grow, topping out at a whopping 11 inches! I’ll prepare the seed bed extra deep for this variety. It’s worth it, though, as Sugarsnax 54 is super sweet and tender. No need to peel this beauty.
My friend Niki Jabbour, a gardener in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and the author of The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener, loves this sweet, crisp carrot. The roots are 6 inches long and are particularly good for autumn and winter harvests. She says their flavor greatly improves after the roots have been touched by a few frosts. I plan to sow a few rows of Yaya in July for winter harvests.
Probably the hands-down favorite for fall planting and overwintering, Merida has been bred to be planted in September and October and then harvested the following spring. This is the carrot that will bring my harvest to a full 10 months. It resists bolting and the roots are crunchy and delicious. If you don’t have a cold frame, a thick layer of straw mulch is all that’s needed to see this carrot through the winter in all but the extreme North.
5. Purple Sun
I’ve grown a lot of purple carrot varieties over the years, but Purple Sun sits at the top of the list. They make great baby carrots and their purple color extends all the way through the carrot, unlike some other purple varieties. The roots are high in anthocyanins, the antioxidants that lend them their rich coloration, and are a boon to human health. I love this one!
A beautiful yellow heirloom, Lobbericher will be a first-timer in my garden this year. I’m looking forward to harvesting this variety while the roots are still young, steaming or sautéing the roots as a side dish. I’ve grown Touchstone Yellow before and I’ve been wanting to try a different yellow selection for comparison.
7. Red Samurai
I saw this true red carrot for the first time last year at the farmers’ market, and I was so stunned that I had to ask the farmer about the name of this amazing root crop. The flavor is bold, but it’s also quite sweet, and the red stays red, even when cooked. I’m so excited to grow this variety!
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