Let's plant Carrots! Nothing beats a fresh sweet carrot straight out of the garden before it makes it into the house! Packed with vitamins and minerals, carrots are a very healthy food. No wonder they are a staple in modern cooking. Carrots are the easiest vegetable to grow and the most fun for kids to plant and harvest, the perfect way to introduce them to gardening and teach them about roots, leaves and about providing for the family in a fun and easy way.
Growing carrots in your own garden will certainly the grocery budget. Did you know that one packet of seed has around seven thousand carrots in it?
History of the carrot
Carrots have been used for thousands of years for medicinal purposes. The history of the carrot can be traced back 5000 years. In the early days there were many varieties of carrots, coming in an assortment of colours - purple, white, black, and red but, surprisingly, not orange!
The Dutch cross-bred the yellow and red carrot to produce a variety that was the emblematic colour of the House of Orange. This carrot quickly became popular and was further developed to become the sweet, succulent orange carrot which is the most recognized colour of carrot used throughout the world today.
The carrot did not become popular in America until after World War I when soldiers returning from the war had been exposed to the carrot in French and other European cuisine. In the Second World War Europe encouraged people grow carrots in their gardens and to cook them in different ways. Growing this crop during troubled times helped people get sufficient amounts of nutritious food to eat in times of food scarcity and rationing.
Carrots will grow in semi-shade to sun in most soil conditions. However, they prefer a fine textured soil with sand and plenty of compost dug into it. Depending on the size of carrot to be grown, the soil needs to be loosened to a depth which will enable the carrots to grow down into the ground easily and all stones removed to prevent distortion and forked roots.
Once the bed has been prepared, water it before planting the seeds. The seeds could be grown in furrows which are only about 1 centimetre deep and 6-12 mm apart. Carrots can also be successfully grown by the broadcast method where an area of soil is prepared and the seeds are scattered over it to grow where they fall rather than in straight furrows. A light covering of compost makes it easier for the carrot seedlings to emerge. Carrots can take up to three weeks before they break through the soil surface.
For a good harvest of mature carrots, thinning is essential. Some gardeners like to sow a few radish seeds into the furrow as radishes emerge quickly and will show where the rows are. Then they can be removed as the plants get bigger making thinning the carrots an easier and more efficient task. Thin to between 5 and 8cm to suit the mature carrot's size. For a continuous supply of fresh carrots sow seeds every three weeks.
Easy Carrot salad
Every family has their own carrot salad recipe and what better way to get the goodness in than with using your home grown produce. Kids love this one and it's so easy for them to make as their contribution to the family braai.
One bunch of carrots - around ten or so mature carrots or more if harvested younger
One small tin or crushed pineapple
Half a cup of orange juice
One packet of peach jelly
Mix it together:
Grate the carrots and mix in the tin of pineapple with the juice. Mix the peach jelly into the oranges juice and pour over carrots. Finally give a final mix to get the flavours through and serve!