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A fistful of carrots brings out the childlike delight in everyone! And now a grower can choose from a resurgence of wonderful colors and flavors to spark that imagination. The most common present day varieties, sweet orange rooted carrots, probably originated in Afghanistan at least 2000 years ago. They were likely purple and yellow with a spiciness that lingers in modern varieties to this day, if you close your eyes and pay attention. Carrots store well in the ground under a thick layer of mulch or, alternatively, in damp sand placed in a cool environment that does not freeze.
Nutrients: vitamins A, C, D, E, K, B1 and B6, potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorous.
Carrots are a frost-tolerant biennial that require full sun and loose soil that is moist but well-drained.
Direct seed carrots outdoors up to 3 weeks before the last frost date. For a continuous harvest, sow seeds every 2-3 weeks throughout the growing season. Optimal soil temperature for germination is 45-85°F.
Sow seeds 1/4-1/2″ deep and ½" apart. Seeds will sprout in 6-21 days. Thin seedlings when the tops are 2" high, so that mature plants are 1-3″apart. Cover maturing carrot crowns as they push up through the soil to prevent bitterness.
Carrots can be harvested as soon as they are big enough to eat or in approximately 60 days, depending on the variety. To prevent damage during harvest, loosen soil with a trowel and hand pull carrots. Established fall plantings may be stored in the ground over winter until needed or for an early spring harvest. To overwinter carrots outdoors, mulch with a couple inches of leaves or straw.
As a biennial root crop, carrots store energy the first year that they will need in order to produce seeds in their second year. Depending on climate, root-to-seed method or seed-to-seed method can be used (see Beets). Seed stalks will emerge from the center of the leaves and form into umbel flowers. The best seeds are produced from primary and secondary umbels. Gather the seeds when the umbels dry and turn brown. Cut the heads off and dry indoors. Rub seed-heads together to free seed. Seeds have small spines that can be removed by brisk rubbing between hands. Caging is a good option for carrots.