Gardening for Life: One last visit to the carrot patch before a hard winter freeze

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By: Jim Carpenter

(John Morgan / Flickr Image source: https://goo.gl/7vlX5M License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

Once again I am reminded of how much variety there is in the garden. Not just variety in what a person might plant, but also in the variety of experiences you might have in growing similar crops. This came to mind as I harvested the last of my carrots the other day.

RELATED: How to garden during brutal Indiana fall and winter months, Oct. 30, 2015

It is not that unusual for me to still have carrots in the ground until December. Usually though, those are the fall carrots that I planted in August. However, the carrots I harvested recently were carrots I planted in April; I’ve never left carrots in the ground that long before. I left them out because I had many carrots left from earlier in the year, and I knew that they would keep until the ground froze solid.

Well, let me tell you, I had some very large carrots. Several of them measured about four inches across the top and weighed nearly two pounds! I pulled up all the carrots and cut off all but about an inch of their tops and gently knocked the dirt off them. As I was filling up several plastic bags with the mostly large and good looking carrots, I had only one thought: “will they still taste good?”.

 

18th century fritter-type recipe

(Recipe originally from “The Compleat Housewife” by Eliza Smith)

“Scrape and boil your carrots and parsnips tender: then scrape or mash them very fine, add to it a pint of pulp, the crumb of a penny loaf grated, or some stale bisket, if you have it, some eggs, but four whites, a nutmeg grated, some orange-flower water, sugar to your taste, a little sack and mix it up with thick cream: they must be fried in rendered suet, the liquor very hot when you put them in: put in a good spoonful in a place.”

I must confess, I have not yet tried this recipe: I seem to be out of rendered suet.

 

After cleaning up one of the medium sized carrots I sliced it up and gave it a taste test. I was pleased to find that these carrots tasted just as good as the ones I harvested earlier in the season. There was one final stamp of approval I needed to get: my wife. I asked her to please taste these carrots before I finished this blog. She agreed that they tasted just fine. I do think that my fall carrots from other years may have been a bit sweeter than these.

I don’t advocate leaving spring planted carrots in the ground for eight months because there are a number of problems that may occur. Many vegetables will turn woody tasting over a long period of time. Also, carrots produce seed in their second year of growth, but I have heard they are sometimes fooled and start producing seed in their first year. If this would happen, most of the plant’s energy would go into seed production instead of into the root. The longer the carrot is left in the ground the greater the possibility this might happen. In addition, I like to plant a cover crop in as much of the garden as I can (usually by September) so I like to have most things harvested by then.

Carrots are the second most popular garden vegetable after potatoes. There are six basic colors of carrots; red, yellow, white, purple, black and orange. Carrots were brought to America by the colonists in the 1600s and were an important food crop to help ensure survival for the early settlers. Carrots have been around for about 5000 years and appear to have originated in the Afghanistan region. The orange carrot, so common today, started its popularity in the 1790s by Dutch growers.

RELATED: Cover crops are a great way to keep green in the garden during winter, Sept. 22, 2015

Carrots are a very nutritious food. Studies show that they not only help in the prevention of heart disease and cancer, but also boost the immune system, lower blood pressure and aid with digestion. Carrots go with almost any food or are delicious eaten as a raw snack.

 

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