Friday, 25 January 2008

And now I want ... weird coloured carrots!

One of my earlier carrot growing efforts

Inspired by the recent discovery of some yellow carrots thriving under a heap of last year's poppy twigs, I've decided to have another go at carrot cultivation in 2008.

I thought I was rubbish at it. And I don't know why, because my light, sandy and stoneless soil should be absolutely ideal for them. Having abandoned my 2007 crop as a failure, the two solitary specimens of Jaune Obtuse du Doubs not only survived and grew to a good size in spite of me, they came out flawless and perfect. If they can cope with poor conditions and total neglect then it's got to be worth giving them another go. Furthermore, they tasted absolutely lovely. Very sweet and crunchy, and in a different league to shop-bought carrots. The seed came from The Real Seed Catalogue.

What I really want to try though is purple carrots. I've heard mixed views about how successful they are in the garden, but I'm a sucker for anything with an unusual colour, and purple vegetables are rich in anthocyanins. I tried to get some last year but couldn't find any that weren't F1 hybrids. In desperation I bought a packet of Purple Haze F1 from a local garden centre earlier this year, just so that I've got something to try out while I'm looking for an open-pollinated version. But more recently I discovered a mail order nursery in the UK that has a good range of speciality carrots of all colours, and pretty low prices too. Nicky's Nursery are offering two open-pollinated purple carrots: Cosmic Purple, which is purply-red on the outside and yellowy orange inside, and the more intensely purple (but still orange in the centre) Purple Dragon. It'll be exciting to find out how they do in the garden. They also have red, yellow, white, and cream carrots, some F1 and some OP, so it's a carrot fancier's delight.

10 comments:

friary said...

I too have had a hard time getting a decent crop of carrots and I've got sandy soil on the allotment. I do remember my father saying he too never grew a decent crop at home - he considered them 'field' crops. Yet I can grow parsnips OK - once I gotten them to germinate. Odd but I'll try again this with Long Red Surrey I got from the Organic Gardening Catalogue last year but didn't sow.

MissHathorn said...

Yes, I three have carrot trouble. My best results so far from stump rooted Guerande. (see the pictures on my blog Oct.'06) But this year I have purchased Purple Dragon and Rodelika from Chris Bauer @ Kokopelli and hope to do better.

Rebsie Fairholm said...

It's funny how many people say they struggle with carrots, even though they're not supposed to be especially difficult to grow.

It'll be interesting to see how the Purple Dragon and Rodelika get on. I've been planning to order some Rodelika myself next time I do a Kokopelli order.

Salix Tree said...

I've never had success with carrots either. The green tops grow wonderfully, but the carrots themselves are small and twisted, a lot of them grow multi-rooted too. I have no problems with beets or turnips, just carrots. No idea why this is.

Patrick said...

The next time you are looking for a particular type of OP seeds, you should consider Baker Creek http://www.rareseeds.com They send orders to Europe for the same shipping charge as people in the US (US$3 per order), and at current exchange rates they are very cheap. They are a very friendly and trustworthy company, and the quality of their seeds is very high.

They have a great selection of carrots in many colors (and sizes and shapes). This is where I usually buy my carrot seeds from.

Rebsie Fairholm said...

Thanks for the tip, Patrick. I often drool over US seed catalogues on the internet but most of them don't seem to do international shipment. It's good to have a personal recommendation for one that does.

Patrick said...

All the seed companies I link to on my blog ship internationally for a reasonable price. I have also ordered something from all of them and had a good experience. I don't ever link to a company I haven't ordered from, or haven't had a good experience with.

Only Sandhill requires payment from a US bank account, so you wouldn't be able to order anything unless someone else paid for you (I could do this) or you sent US$ cash in the mail.

Some of them are small companies and you have to send an email to arrange things in advance. You should tell these companies I sent you, they probably remember me.

Baker Creek is my overall favorite because they have very good prices, a good selection and their seeds are very fresh and high quality. The only negative thing I can think of is some of their seeds are a little boring compared with other places, but boring isn't necessarily bad and if you look around there are plenty of interesting seeds to be had as well.

Remember to think about what will grow in our climate. They all sell plenty of things like melons, okra, lima (butter) beans and so on, that you won't find in local seed sources, and won't grow here.

Mike said...

Weird stuff, this carrot-growing business. I have heavy clayish soil, so I'm supposed to struggle with carrots, yet never do. Throw the seed into the ground, water until they're established, and then more-or-less forget, thinning a bit, watering when I remember them.

I have Cosmic Purple just beginning to flower (unless its just a few rogues bolting; keeping an eye on it for now, though I usually discard the first 20% or so of a carrot-seed crop on principle so as not to select early-seeders.) If you're willing to hang on a bit I'll gladly put an envelope in the post when I do get seed. My seed originally came from Baker Creek.

I wasn't much impressed with Cosmic Purple, though. The colours are fantastic, but the texture is woody and the flavour is best summed up as "really tasteless". And they were pampered and molly-coddled, so it's unlikely anything I did wrong, I think. If I were selling at a market, Cosmic Purple would be a winner on looks alone; for eating I don't think I'll bother again. I'd far rather eat Nantes or Chantenay.

I'll probably just grow a batch every few years to keep the seed-line going.

Rebsie Fairholm said...

Thanks Mike for a very detailed and insightful comment! It's interesting to know that Cosmic Purple has flavour and texture issues. Anthocyanin itself is supposed to be tasteless, but in my experience with purple peas, purples are not in the same texture/flavour league as green peas. So I wonder whether the presence of anthocyanin has an effect on something else ... or whether it's just a case of breeding them more carefully (given that most commercial breeding is not geared towards flavour improvement).

I have now bought some Cosmic Purple along with a couple of other oddities, so it'll be interesting to see how they turn out. Thanks for the seed offer though. I now know who to ask if I have any queries about carrot seed saving!

Patrick said...

I don't think much of the taste of Cosmic Purple either, and I've heard others say the same thing. It is one of the neatest looking carrots however, especially if you slice it at an angle near the top. Purple Dragon, which I have never successfully grown is supposed to taste much better.

In my old garden I also had clay soil, and never had any real problems with carrots. I tried Purple Dragon one year which didn't grow, but I think that was a problem with the seeds.

The first year I had a several bifurcations, and thus the name of my blog, but after that I never even had much in the way of bifurcations.

I've never really understood why other people could have problems with carrots, but before I say that too loudly I better wait and see what happens in my new garden this year.