Year of the Carrot
Each year the National Garden Bureau selects one annual, one perennial, and one edible as their “Year of the” crops. Each is chosen because they are popular, easy-to-grow, widely adaptable, genetically diverse, and versatile.
Carrots are one of the Top 10 most economically important vegetable crops in the world. Carrots are delicious, nutritious, and versatile — and with a little bit of know-how, this root crop is also easy to grow.
The ancestor to the modern-day carrot is believed to have originated in Afghanistan and was purple, scrawny and pungent. Over time, cultivation by Greeks and Romans resulted in roots that were plumper, tastier, and came in shades of purple, red, and black. It wasn’t until the late 16th or early 17th Century that the orange, appetizing carrots that we know today were bred by the Dutch in Europe.
Basic Varieties Grown Today
Carrots (Daucus carota) are members of the Apiaceae family, which also includes culinary plants such as anise, celery, coriander (cilantro), dill and parsnips. They are biennials, meaning that they will flower in the second year of growth, but are typically grown as annuals (grown and harvested in the same year). There are several different carrot types and they are primarily divided up by shape. The following are some of the more well-known types, along with their characteristics:
1. Chantenay-Conical have triangular shaped roots with broad shoulders and rounded tips. A sweet flavor makes it good for eating fresh.
• Chantenay varieties include Royal Chantenay, Red Core, Kuroda
2. Danvers-Cylindrical have thick roots that are often used to make carrot juice due to the high water content and low sugar content.
• Danvers varieties include Danvers, Danvers Half Long
3. Imperator-Long have tapered roots with narrow shoulders. These are typically the carrots you would buy in a plastic bag at the grocery store.
• Imperator varieties include: Sugarsnax 54, Imperator 58, Yellowbunch
4. Miniature/Baby have small round roots (also called planet-types) or cylindrical and short roots.
• Miniature/Baby varieties include Atlas, Parisian, Adelaide
5. Nantes-Cylindrical have cigar-shaped roots that are sweet and crispy.
• Varieties include: Purple Haze (All-America Selection Winner), Mokum, Nelson
Carrots are easy to grow from seed and perform best when sown directly into a garden bed or patio container.
Source: National Garden Bureau