With their compelling health benefits and a thumbs-up from taste testers, colourful varieties of carrots have quickly established themselves to be de rigueur for both home growers and market gardeners. Launched back in 2005, coloured carrots caused a great stir and added some much needed excitement to the meals of many children and adults alike who were fascinated by the wonderful colours.
This season we are offering a mix of four rare and unusual, heirloom organic varieties. In orange, yellow, white and purple.
Maturing in 130 to 140 days, they are relatively slow growing, so sow sufficiently early and give adequate space. All four produce conical roots that are great for both fresh use and for storage.
- Riesen von Colmar 2 - Red Giant 2 type, one of the oldest varieties that is deep orange in colour.
- Gniff - Very attractive with purple outer skin and white inside. It was traditionally grown in mountain areas of Ticino, in Switzerland.
- Küttiger - A traditional Swiss carrot variety from Aargau, they produce white, fairly short roots.
- Jaune du Doubs - This French variety’s name comes from the yellow colour of its skin (jaune) and the region in eastern France around the Doubs River. It has bright-yellow 20 to 25cm (8 to 10in) conical roots and a sweet flavour.
The four carrot varieties, Riesen von Colmar 2, Gniff, Küttiger and Jaune du Doubs have each been awarded the ProSpecieRara as rare or old varieties. ProSpecieRara is a network partner of the European SAVE Foundation and is a foundation dedicated to preserving the diversity of rare plant varieties and traditional crops from extinction.
- Certified Organic Seed.
This seed has been organically produced. The seed has been harvested from plants that have themselves been grown to recognised organic standards, without the use of chemicals. No treatments have been used, either before or after harvest and the seed is supplied in its natural state.
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.
Carrot seed should be sown into deep, fine, rather sandy, fertile soil with a pH of 6.5 – 7.5. The soil should not have been manured in the past year; ideally it will have been manured for a previous crop. If the ground has been manured in the past year do not grow carrots in that spot. If your soil is not ideally suitable, you can prepare a large container instead.
Sowing: Sow successionally from February
Carrots sown early in February in a cold frame/cloche will be ready to harvest by June. Put the cloche in place a month before sowing as this helps to warm up the soil. Sowing seeds into modules is another way to obtain early cropping. Sowing in early spring to early summer will hopefully avoid the most harmful hatchings of the carrot fly.
Sow the carrot seed thinly into drills 2cm ( ¾in) deep. The rows should be spaced at 12 to 15cm (5 to 6in) apart for optimum performance. 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 them together. Sand will also aid drainage.
Once the seedlings are showing their first rough leaves, thin out to 7 to 10cm (3 to 4in) apart which minimises competition and enables the carrots to grow quickly to harvest size.
It is best to thin seedlings in the evening when carrot fly are not around, as it’s the odour of bruised leaves which attracts them.
Use a lightweight fleece over the bed to increase the temperature of the soil while also preventing the carrot flies from laying their eggs. Keep the ground around the carrots weed-free by hand. As foliage develops the leaf canopy will suppress the annual weeds.
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: 12 to 20 weeks maturity.
Early varieties of carrot will be ready to harvest approximately 12 weeks from sowing, and maincrop varieties after about 16 weeks. 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. The first roots are usually lifted when they are 12 to 15mm (½in)in diameter, remembering roots will continue to grow as the seasonal temperature rises. Use a fork to lift, being careful not to damage the carrots.
Late-sown carrots must be lifted by October once the foliage begins to wilt and turn yellow, to be stored over the winter.
For winter, carrots can either be lifted in October and stored, or left in the ground ensuring the crowns are covered with a secure layer of straw to protect them from the frosts.
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
Carrots do well alongside most plants, especially Chives, Garlic, Rosemary and Sage (which also 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.
You can save seeds from this heirloom variety quite simply. Carrots are biennial plants, they will grow their greenery and long, tender root this year, but won’t flower until next year, so you’ll have to sacrifice the root from your best looking plant for saving carrot seed in order to insure that future crops will carry those admirable traits. When saving carrot seeds during the second flowering year, allow the seed heads to fully ripen on the plant. When the flower heads begin to brown and become dry, carefully cut the heads and place them in a small, paper bag and then leave them alone until the drying is complete. Remember to label and date the packaging before storing your seeds in a cool, dry place. The cooler the storage, the longer the viability of the seed.
- Forced Crop: Carrots sown in February in a cold frame/cloche are ready to harvest by June. When using cloches put them in place a month before sowing as this helps to warm up the soil. Sow forced crop seeds in 2cm deep drills (shallow furrows), 15cm apart, preferably a bed prepared the previous autumn. Protect by garden fleece in colder areas. Thin out plants to 10cm apart which minimises competition and enables the carrots to grow quickly to harvest size.
- Early Outdoors: Later in Spring (March/April) sow seeds directly outdoors. Where possible, cover with garden fleece to speed germination and protect against carrot fly. Harvest in July/September.
- Main Crop: These are sown in April/May and harvested in October/November. This time its drills 2cm deep but 30cm apart. Sow seed very thinly and cover with light soil. Thin seedlings out to 4cm apart. These carrots are particularly suitable for storage after harvest.
- Late Main Crop: These should be sown June/July and are ready for harvesting from December onwards. Late varieties are good for storing and produce large roots. Thin seedlings out to 4 to 5cm apart and avoid bruising the leaves when thinning as the smell can attract carrot fly. .
- Additional Information
Packet Size 1 gram Average Seed Count 800 Seeds Seed Form Natural, Certified Organic Seeds Common Name Four Colourful Varieties Family Apiaceae Genus Daucus Species carota ssp. sativus Cultivar Colourful Heirloom Mixture Hardiness Hardy Biennial Time to Sow Sow successionally March to August Germination 14 to 21 days Harvest June to October.