(Genus: Daucus - Species: Daucus carota - Family: Apiaceae)
Carrot and its origins
The carrot is a herbaceous biennial plant that is native to the temperate zones of Europe, Asia and North Africa. In fact, it is generally grown in all temperate areas of the globe. It is cultivated for the root, a long cylindrical or spindle-shaped taproot, which is the part most commonly eaten, although the lush, green, aromatic foliage is also edible.
The most common cultivar used today has an orange-coloured flesh, however, this was not the original colour of the wild variant Daucus carota in ancient times which had a white flesh. The dominance of the orange-coloured variety relates to influence of the Netherlands in the carrot’s cultivation. The orange colour was developed to honour the Netherland’s royal family.
How to Plant:
The carrot thrives in a warm, temperate climate with an optimum temperature is 16-18 °C. It is a very adaptable plant and hardy too.
Sow carrots directly outdoors, the taproot makes it difficult to transplant and therefore, starting seeds in nurseries is not advisable. Raise the soil in the flowerbed by approximately 10-15cm and ensure that you plant in an area that will receive full sunlight.
Plant carrot seeds in rows, 20-25cm apart and at a depth of 1cm. Use 0.5-1g of seeds per m². Sowing can take place once the threat of frost has diminished and the minimum temperature exceeds 8 ° C, normally from the month of March. Repeat sowing every month until June, to ensure that you have regular fresh harvests. By sowing carrots in late July or early August you can create an autumn harvest.
Soil should be prepared well in advance, rotating it to remove any stones which can affect growth. It should be a loose soil, rich in organic matter and mixed with sand or clay and limestone where appropriate to deliver a slightly acidic PH. It must remain moist to ensure a sweeter crop but does not require constant irrigation. For best results, prepare the carrot soil in autumn or before sowing.
Fertilise the soil pre-sowing with xxg/m² Xxxxx xxxxxx. The soil will require regular fertilising, using 20g/m² of the product, the first when the plant has 4-5 leaves and then every 4-6 weeks after that. Alternatively, when foliage appears, use xx-xx g/m² of Xxxxx xxxxx, immediate-release fertiliser.
After the initial budding phase, carrots have limited water requirements, development is slowed by excess water and the taproot can become hard and woody.
When to harvest a carrot
The focus of growth for a carrot in the first year is in the root. In the second year, the foliage begins to flourish and the stems begin to grow tall, up to a meter high in some cases, shooting branches as they grow. At the top, a beautiful umbel-shaped inflorescence grows with a bright pink colour. Flowering can occur from May to late autumn.
Traditionally orange, the taproots can vary in colour, depending on the species, varying from yellow to white or even purple.
Harvest time is dependent on the variety. Short-root carrots can be harvested early, as soon as 1.5 months after germination. Other long-root varieties can take a much longer time to reach maturity. Carrots that mature in the autumn should be harvested before winter to avoid being blighted by frost.
Stored at the correct temperature, carrots have a very long shelf life. Storing at 1 °C will ensure they can last up to six months, however, if the temperature increases to 4 ° C, it will dramatically shorten the carrots life.
Diseases and pests affecting carrot growth
- Mole crickets
Did you know?
The old wife’s tale that carrots are linked to eyesight is actually true, while they won’t let you see in the dark, the presence of vitamin A ensures that your vision, particularly your night vision will be enhanced or restored by the vitamin’s presence in your diet.
It is packed with other beneficial nutrients and antioxidants. Rich in beta-carotene, carrot extract is widely used in cosmetics for its antioxidant properties. Carotene also stimulates the tanning process and prevents the formation of wrinkles, in addition to being an effective treatment for dry skin.
Carrots are used widely in cooking and are also eaten raw in salads or as a popular snack with dips. Carrot cake is enjoyed across the globe but a carrot can also be simply baked, boiled, roasted or fried.