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Growing Carrots

As with any vegetable, a carrot tastes best when it is fresh from the garden. Unlike most grocery store varieties, home grown carrots are sweet and crisp.

Carrots originated in Afghanistan and were purple, not orange. Throughout the Middle Ages carrots available in Europe were red, purple, yellow, orange or white. Over time breeders worked to phase out carrots in colors other than orange to increase the beta-carotene, which is associated with orange and yellow colors in food. In addition to beta-carotene carrots are an excellent source of fiber, thiamine and riboflavin.

Growing carrots is fairly simple. Sow them in early spring, after the soil warms, to mid-summer and then again in late summer to early fall. They seem to grow best during times of warm, sunny days and cool nights.

To achieve the best results, choose a variety of carrot that is suited to your soil. There are 4 major types, Nantes, Chantenay, Danver and Imperator. Danvers are good for heavy soils, while Nantes (the sweetest tasting) do well in raised beds or sandy soils. Chantenays are probably the most widely grown carrot. Their thick shoulders and short form make them ideal for shallow or heavy soils. Imperator carrots are long and slender. Plant these if you have deep, light soil.

Carrots are a natural for eating in the fall and winter since root vegetables can be stored easily, even in the ground if the soil doesn't freeze. I really like the way fresh carrots look with their green tops. But if you're going to store them, remove the green foliage because moisture escapes through the foliage taking water out of the carrot itself. This is particularly true of the small baby varieties.