Behind every carrot is a carrot lover. If that’s not you, well maybe you haven’t had the luck to eat one that’s homegrown?
Warming weather reminds us it’s time to plant carrots. They’re one of the more challenging veggies to grow but also one of the more rewarding. So take a deep breath and find the Zen within — the long game with them is patience. Patience that culminates in unmatchable flavor.
Direct sow carrots. Like most root vegetables, plant them by seed straight into your garden. Steer clear of carrot starts you may find at your local nursery. Carrots don’t transplant well and easily fork when they hit an object (such as the bottom of a six pack container). While it’s possible to transplant them you’ll have better results from direct seeding.
Choose carrot varieties that are best for your climate and garden. If you’re working with small containers, try growing little finger carrots (such as those shown above) or Scarlet Nantes. If you have a taller container, you may want to grow tricolor carrots or another, larger growing variety.
Carrot seeds are tiny and need to be planted near the soil surface. Prep your soil, make sure it’s level and flat and not bone dry but moist before planting. For best results, I like to simply spread seeds evenly over the soil. Care with seed spacing from the beginning saves time on thinning later. Once you’re happy with the spacing (generally 2 to 3 inches apart), top seeds with a thin layer of compost, potting soil or vermiculite. I’ve found a thin layer of vermiculite or fine compost is great for maintaining soil moisture near the surface (perfect for germinating seeds) and gives them the protection they need.
For quick germination, wait to plant until soil temperatures are about 75 degrees. Basically, wait until your day time temps are in the 70’s or more. Your seed packet may tell you to plant seeds about 3 weeks before the last frost, however, I’ve found if carrots are planted too early they will either languish or simply not germinate.
Try sowing a handful of seeds at a time and plant every 3 or 4 weeks to guarantee a continual harvest and, if possible, get a final planting in before temperatures drop in late summer or early fall.
I often dedicate an entire planter to carrots, that way I don’t loose track of where they’re growing and I can be sure they’re getting what they need: maintaining soil moisture throughout the germination process, thinning if they’re too close together and keeping them weed free. However, it’s fun to interplant them by tucking them in here and there wherever there’s room.
To thin, simply snip off the greens of over crowded carrots using scissors or clippers.
Carrots can take anywhere from 50 to 90 days to mature. It can feel like forever, but the more time you give them to grow the more flavor they’ll develop.
The size of carrot greens isn’t always an indicator as to whether carrots are ready to harvest. Check carrots before pulling by loosening and moving soil away from the crown of the root. If you’re happy with what you see, pull one, taste it and go from there. I like to harvest what I need and let the others continue to grow until we’re ready for more. However sometimes, if I’m working with a small container, I’ll pull them all at once, freshen soil and sow again to maximize the growing season.
Eat carrots raw or roasted. Add them to juice, salads or grated onto sandwiches. Make your favorite soup and try pairing with ginger, mint and lemon.
What You Need:
1 to 2 lbs washed
Salt & pepper to taste
What To Do:
Wash carrots and cut or leave whole. I love them with about an inch of the greens left on for color (I’m testing my theory that food tastes better when it’s also pleasing to the eye).
Mix in other veggies if you have them. Shaved fennel, beets, radishes, turnips and onions are a great combination.
Coat lightly with olive oil. Stir in fresh ground salt and pepper to taste and pop in the oven at 350 degrees and test with a fork periodically to be sure they don’t overcook.
What You’ll Need:
2 lbs carrots washed and cut into 2 to 3 inch pieces
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder or 1 small garlic clove finely minced
Fresh ground salt & pepper to taste
1 lemon zested & juiced
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/8 tsp cayenne powder *optional
3 Tbsp fresh mint torn or coarsely chopped
Honey for drizzling
Crumbled feta to garnish
What To Do:
Toss carrots with olive oil, spices, salt and pepper. Go lightly with olive oil, add until glistening.
Roast for about 30 – 40 minutes at 400 degrees F.
Remove from oven and top with lemon zest, lemon juice, mint, feta and honey.
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