As our first VOTM we chose carrots! The aim is to give you a bit of background to a familiar vegetable, as well as how we grow and use them here at the Skip Garden. They are delicious raw and cooked, and claim healthy antioxidant, cardiovascular, as well as cancer fighting properties.
Vegetable Origins & Varieties
Carrot: Daucuc carota subsp. Sativus. Umbelliferae
This root vegetable was originally from Afghanistan but was domesticated in pre-history around the Mediterranean in what we now term the Fertile Crescent. It did not arrive in the UK until the reign of Elizabeth I when Flemish refugees introduced them. The ubiquitous orange carrot is a cross of white and red varieties made to please the Dutch House of Orange although these days you can get a range of colours. We grow Paris Market and Chantenay types, small round roots that do well in our bread tray planters and the shallow Skip beds.
Growing tips & Harvesting
Carrots are easy to grow, and even work well in small spaces, such as window boxes. Germination of carrot seeds is poor at temperatures below 7.5 degrees C so make sure the soil is warm before sowing outside in March. Sandy loose soils are better then heavy clay soils for growing this crop. Sow successionally (few and often) to avoid gluts. There are varieties that can be grown through the winter under cover such as Amstel, Early Gem and Early Nantes.
The black carrot fly is the bane of this crop as its grub eats channels around the outside of the root. It’s said they can smell carrots from 1km away. Raise a 20cm barrier around the bed to stop the female fly laying her eggs as she only flies at 10cm above the ground - strange, but it works!
Storing & Preparation
Carrots can be left in the ground until needed if protected from frost. After pulling they are best stored with their green leafy heads removed in a fridge. For lengthy storage they can be layered with damp sand.
Carrots are best washed then topped & tailed, but may need peeling as they age. Many of their nutrients are just under the skin however! They can be eaten raw, boiled, steamed or roasted.
My Favourite recipes
1/2 lb grated carrot
1tsp baking powder
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
Beat sugar and oil, slowly add eggs. Sift in dry ingredients & mix, add carrot. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 180 degreesC in lined muffin tins. Great with a cream cheese frosting!
Carrot, Couscous & Beetroot Salad
200g Carrot & Oil for roasting
150g Couscous, cooked
Roast beetroot for 1 hour at 180 degreesC, allow to cool, then peel and chop. Wash & cut carrots into chunks, roast for 20 minutes at 180 degreesC then add honey, cinnamon & orange zest, roast for another 5 minutes. Mix it all together and add your favourite dressing.
Carrots are a lovely versatile vegetable which can be used in both sweet & savoury dishes. They also contain beta-carotene, an important nutrient for healthy eyes (though I'm not claiming they'll help you see in the dark!)
by Fi Doran