Andrea of Garden of Eady recently issued a challenge for newbie bloggers to write about their favorite subject related to gardening. Carrots are definitely one of my favorites, mainly because any idiot can get them to grow with just a minimal amount of effort involved. I’m not always the wisest gardener, but carrots and I understand each other well. I give them a little bit of care, on a very infrequent basis, and they slowly but surely grow into yummy little bits of dirty goodness that I can use throughout the summer and fall. Today I’m sharing the blog post that I wrote for Thursday’s Edition of Garden of Eady, which won second place in the Garden of Eady Challenge. Thank you so much Andrea for encouraging new bloggers to write about subjects that are a little bit out of their normal wheelhouse, as well as helping to share that writing with a much broader fan base. I encourage everyone to take a moment to check out “Garden of Eady Challenge – 1st Place,” in which Christina of Little Sprouts Learning writes about gardening with kids.
Preparing to Plant:
You don’t have to be the world’s greatest gardener to start a vegetable garden in your back yard. You just need to know what crops to plant. Carrots make a marvelous beginner crop, due to their low maintenance. Worried about Bugs Bunny eating your entire garden? Try planting your root vegetables in a raised bed. You will require very loose soil to plant carrots, so a raised bed will only help to improve the growth of your vegetables. Make sure to remove any rocks or debris from the soil before planting your carrot seeds, as these may lead to taproots. Taproots occur when the root of a carrot encounters an object, and therefore must grow around it. Most gardeners will tell you that these taproots should be avoided, however I think they look kind of neat, so I don’t fuss about removing every little piece of tree bark that has fallen into the soil bed. I embrace the odd carrot that requires a parental warning label. I’m also going to take the time right now to let you know that your carrots will not look like those that you purchase at your local market. They will look puny in comparison. However, they will taste like carrots. Think the snozberries taste like snozberries. We don’t even realize how much our produce is lacking in flavor, until we taste local in-season produce that has not gone through a complete chemical transformation.
After you have made sure that your soil is extremely loose, you can begin to plant you carrot seeds. Carrots seeds should be planted 3 to 5 weeks before the last spring frost date. That’s right, you’re going to plant something that will not be harmed if your particular planting zone drops below freezing. Is this a miracle plant, or what? Most seed packets will suggest to plant rows 3-4 inches apart. My opinion on this subject varies drastically. I just scatter the seeds over the soil, and then cover them with an inch of soil. I’m a lazy gardener, and I like to use what technique works best for me.
Carrots make a wonderful companion plant to tomatoes. They help to improve tomato production, and when left to flower, help to attract predatory wasps, which kill many other garden pests.
Soil should always remain well drained and loose. Once the plants have reached an inch tall, they should be thinned. Thinning the carrots will provide the carrots with enough space to grow. Once again, I’m lazy. I usually wait until the green tops are at least three to four inches tall, before beginning to thin some of the carrots out of the bed. My laziness pays off though, because now the little carrots that have been weeded are still big enough to be used on salads, or as an appetizer. This is where the recipe comes in handy; make sure to read on further for details. Please note that once again, your baby carrots will not resemble the baby carrots that you purchase at your local market, because they are not carrots on steroids.
Carrots usually reach their maturity around 2 ½ months, or when they become a ½-inch wide. Pluck each carrot gently from the soil, twist the tops off, and then rinse well under cold running water. Make sure to seal the carrots in an airtight container and refrigerate.
Carrots can be stored for several months in a cool, moist environment. In the winter, they may also be stored in a bucket, between layers of sand. You will need to place the bucket in a location that is anywhere between 32 and 40ºF.
Interesting Carrot Facts:
- Carrots were grown for their aromatic leaves and seeds originally; not for their edible roots.
- European settlers introduced carrots to the North American continent in the 17th century.
- Carrot extracts are used to create brighter egg yolks, as well as improve the skin color of poultry.
- During digestion, only 3% of a carrots beta-carotene is released. You can increase this percentage to almost 39% by pulping, cooking, and then sautéing carrots in cooling oil.
- In Europe, a recent study showed that 3.6 percent of young adults had an allergic reaction to carrots. Most carrot allergy sufferers are also allergic to birch and mugwort pollen.
RECIPE FOR THINNED BABY CARROTS
- 1 Tablespoon Honey, Warmed
- 1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
- Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- Whisk all of the ingredients together, and then drizzle over the baby carrots that have been picked and washed thoroughly.
- Don’t be overly concerned about a little bit of dirt clinging to your carrots. As long as you have no toxins in your soil, you’ll live!
- Whip up a fresh batch of Cannellini Bean Dip with Pineapple Sage to submerge your baby carrots in.
I hope that you’ll embrace the opportunity to plant and nurture carrots in your garden. Quite frankly, it’s a vegetable that any dim-witted person can plant and have success with. I’m living proof. The roots are tucked safely underground, just waiting for you to enjoy them. They don’t require an excessive amount of water or attention, and you can harvest them a little bit at a time, unlike most vegetables. You’ll be amazed how different they taste compared to those from your local market. It may be a bit late to get started with planting this year, but pencil it in on next year’s agenda. It will definitely be worth the little bit of effort.
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