Carrots once came in a wide variety of colours, but changed over time to orange thanks to the influence of patriotic Dutch growers who, in the sixteenth century bred the carrot orange to honour their national colours. Modern agribusiness narrowed our choices even further.
Atomic Red is a lovely new variety helping restore the wide variety of carrot colours that were present before the 16th Century. This distinctively beautiful scarlet-coral coloured carrot produces long tapered roots, around 22cm (9in) in length. It is suitable for maincrop use and best suited to spring and autumn sowings, thriving in cooler weather.
A crisp, strong flavoured carrot when eaten raw and especially good cooked when it develops its remarkable colour and flavour. The carrots turn deeper red when steamed, roasted or baked. They are particularly suitable for stir frying and great for colouring up sushi and salads.
Atomic Red carrots get their hue from the anti-oxidant lycopene which is also found in tomatoes and other red fruits & vegetables, such as red carrots, watermelons and papayas (but not strawberries or cherries). The outer skin is darker and the interior fades to orange.
Lycopene is highly regarded as a cancer-preventing nutrient. Generally speaking the more colour in the carrot the higher the content of beta-carotene and vitamins. The human body apparently absorbs lycopene better when vegetables are cooked.
Prepare the site:
Success with root vegetables is very much down to the quality of the soil, so it’s worth taking the time to prepare your patch. Start digging over your soil in late winter or early spring, removing any stones you find and turn the soil until it has a fine, crumbly texture. If your soil is not ideally suitable, you can prepare a large container instead. Do not add manure as this makes the soil too rich for the seeds. Too much nitrogen will cause the carrots to grow hairy little roots all up and down the carrot.
Carrots sown in February in a cold frame/cloche are ready to harvest by June. Put the cloche in place a month before sowing as this helps to warm up the soil.
Sowing: Sow from Feb under cloches or fleece. Can be sown as late as August
Carrot seeds are small, but it’s wise to plant them as thinly as possible. This reduces the amount of thinning necessary and potential risk from pests. Mix the seeds with a handful of sharp sand and sow the seeds and sand together. Sand will also aid drainage. Once the seedlings are showing their first rough leaves, thin to 5 to 7cm (2 to 3in) between plants.
Use a lightweight fleece over the bed to increase the temperature of the soil while also preventing the carrot flies from laying their eggs. The plants need little other attention during their growth period, although the plants should be kept well watered – too little water results in coarse, woody roots.
Harvesting: Atomic carrots mature in 76 days.
Start pulling up your carrots as soon as they are big enough to eat. It’s best to harvest them in the evening to avoid attracting carrot fly. Late-sown carrots must be lifted by October to be stored over the winter.
Store only the best, undamaged roots, cut off their foliage and lay the roots between layers of sand in a strong box, ensuring that the roots do not touch. Store somewhere cool and dry, check the carrots occasionally, removing any odd rotten roots before they infect their neighbours. Carrot tops can be used in a variety of dishes, including raw in drinks or in salads.
Carrots are an excellent source of the deep yellow carotenoids that produce vitamin A. They are also a good source of magnesium, potassium, vitamins C and B complex, and a form of calcium that is easily absorbed by the body.
During the first five months of storage, carrots will actually increase their vitamin A content; and, if protected from heat or light, can hold their nutrient content for another two or three months
Carrot fly is drawn to carrots by the smell of crushed foliage, reduce the risk of an attack by thinning plants in the evening on a still day, removing any thinnings and watering afterwards. Carrot fly are also low-flying insects: erecting a ‘wind-break’ style shield around a crop will also help deter these pests.
Carrots do well alongside most plants, especially Chives, Garlic, Rosemary and Sage (which deter Carrot Fly).
However Dill, Coriander and other members of the Umbelliferae family should not be planted near carrots as they tend to cross pollinate which can be important if you are to save your own seed.
Carrots originated in what is now Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan and by about 1000 A.D., they were being grown from India to the Eastern Mediterranean. By the 1300s, purple and yellow carrots had spread as far as western Europe and China. Red carrots originated in India, China, and Japan in the 1700s
White and orange carrots first appeared in Europe during the 1700s. Orange carrots quickly displaced all other colours and dominate the world to this day.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 1 gram Average Seed Count 800 Seeds Common Name Maincrop Family Apiaceae Genus Daucus Species Carota ssp. sativus Cultivar Atomic Red Hardiness Hardy Biennial Spacing Thin the seedlings to 5 to 7cm (2 to 3in) between plants. Time to Sow Sow successionally from Feb under cloches or fleece Germination 15 to 20 days Harvest Start pulling up your carrots as soon as they are big enough to eat Time to Harvest Atomic Red carrots mature in 76 days.