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Member Name: Stewwydablue
Advantages: Tasty, easy to grow
Disadvantages: Some soil preparation required
For those that have only ever eaten frozen or supermarket bought carrots, I'm going to use this review as a way of convincing you that it's pretty easy to grow your own far superior carrots for less money, less environmental impact (zero food miles and no use of pesticides) and more taste. Carrots that have been pulled from your own garden really do taste far better than those which have been imported from Holland and kept in refrigeration for a week before entering our kitchens.
Carrots are thought to come from central Asia originally, but have been widespread throughout Asia and Europe for hundreds of years as an edible farmed crop. It may come as a surprise to most, but carrots are also available in white, yellow, red, even purple! Also, the shape of a carrot doesn't have to be the tapered cylinder we all know and love, you can get short squat round "globe" shaped carrots too. These small ball shaped carrots are known as "Chantenay" types, whereas the more conventional shape of carrot we are most familiar with are from the "Nantes" family of carrots.
Soil preparation is key with carrots - get the soil right and you will be rewarded by a good crop of decent sized carrots. Carrots prefer light, sandy soils free from pebbles which will cause the growing carrots to deviate from a tapering, straight growing shape. Any obstacles in the soil will produce amusingly (and obscene) shaped carrots, difficult to peel but good for the comedy value.
Early sown carrots can be sown outside under a cloche or fleece in March, most carrots however are sown straight to the growing position in April as they do prefer full sun. If your soil is unsuitable for carrots and you haven't got the time or energy to prepare it, a good trick is to leave the soil as it is, but make holes in it with a metal pipe or crowbar and then fill in the hole with soft compost - sow the seed in this and the carrot should grow unhindered.
Growing times vary with different varieties of carrots, but most are ready to eat after 10 weeks, and most can be kept in the ground until ready for pulling until well into the autumn.
CARING FOR CARROTS
Keep on top of the weeding whilst the carrots are only seedlings, and you can thin out baby carrots which are delicious - thin out to about 4 inches apart. Carrots can have a problem with carrot fly, but there are ways around this. For example, carrot flies are weak fliers so I plant my carrots in a bin, meaning that the carrots are growing about a metre off the floor. Also, I plant chives and garlic around my carrots so that the smell from these alliums masks the scent of the carrot foliage which confuses the carrot fly.
USING CARROTS - FOR EATING
Boiled, mashed, roasted, sliced, grated, raw, diced or cut into strips and used with dips - carrots are very versatile. Eating a raw (washed of course!) carrot fresh from your garden will give you a far tastier treat than any bland, imported, supermarket bought carrot ever could.
USING CARROTS - OTHER USES
Carrots have some medicinal qualities - they are useful for cleaning the intestines, a diuretic, an anti-anaemic, their alkaline elements can clean our blood, and carrots can also help to kick start milk flow during lactation for nursing mothers. Also, carrots can be made into wine and used as a dye.
With a little bit of work getting the soil right at the start, carrots are easy to grow after that and very rewarding to eat. Grab some seeds and get sowing!
Summary: Let's get growing!