An article by Travis Key from Lazy Dog Farm
One of our recent blogs provided a complete guide to growing carrots and discussed how feeding with AgroThrive Fruit and Flower can improve the size and quality of the carrots in your backyard garden. Now that you see how easy it is to grow carrots in your backyard garden, how do you choose which variety of carrots to grow? There are hundreds of different carrot varieties available in a wide range shapes and colors. We’ll use this blog to explain the differences in carrot color and carrot shape so you can make the right choices for your garden.
The Many Colors of Carrots
Did you know that native carrots were white and not orange? The wild carrot, also known as Queen’s Anne’s Lace, has a white or cream-colored root. All the modern-day carrot varieties were derived from this native variety through selective breeding. You can still buy white carrot seeds, but they are improved versions of the wild carrot. All carrots provide a great source of fiber for your diet, but there are some nutritional differences between the colorful carrot choices on the market.
These are rich in beta-carotene which the body will convert into Vitamin A. Vitamin A is essential for vision, immune system support, and skin health. Much like orange juice, orange carrots are also loaded with Vitamin C which prevents cell damage and supports the immune system.
The purple color is due to anthocyanin pigments in the carrots that have antioxidant properties linked to a wide range of health benefits. These include reduced inflammation and improved heart health. Purple carrots also contain more polyphenols than orange carrots.
These contain xanthophylls, which give them their yellow color. Much like beta-carotene, xanthophylls are carotenoids which have antioxidant properties. They promote eye health and can reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration.
Like tomatoes, red carrots get their color from the high concentrations of lycopene. This carotenoid is associated with a reduced risk of cancers and heart disease.
As you can see, there are many reasons you should be growing and eating lots of carrots! We recommend trying all the colors to see which ones you like the best. Many times, we’ll plant a raised bed with each color, but we’ve also mixed colors in a single bed. Just know that each variety will have a slightly different maturity date, so they may not all be ready to harvest at the same time.
The Many Shapes of Carrots
Carrots can also vary greatly in their shape. Some carrots are short and compact while others are long and slender. The type you should grow will largely depend on your soil type, but it also may depend on your intentions for them. You may want smaller carrots if you’re using them for pot roasts, or you may want larger carrots if you’re going to be slicing them for snacking.
These heirloom carrots were originally grown in France, but many hybrid Nantes varieties have been developed since. This carrot is very cylindrical with almost no taper. They’re the same width at the top as they are at the bottom. These are a great option if you want a uniform carrot with no taper.
Nantes are great for juicing or eating fresh. They will grow best in soft, well-drained soils where they’ll average 6-7” long. If you have hard, compact soils they’ll likely only get a few inches long. This can be mitigated by adding lots of compost to your soil prior to planting.
Chantenay carrots are short and stubby with a strong taper from top to bottom. These carrots are very wide at the top and usually taper to a sharp point at the bottom of the carrot. They are perfect for gardeners with less-than-ideal soil.
Chantenay carrots will grow in the toughest soils because they don’t get that long. Some gardeners with soft soils also prefer the shape of Chantenay carrots. The smaller, compact shape makes them a great option for roasts and other dishes using whole carrots.
When you imagine a carrot in your head, a Danvers carrot is likely what you see. These are the traditional “Bugs Bunny” carrots that have a sharp taper to a pointed end. They have a similar profile to the Chantenay carrots, but they get much longer than a Chantenay.
Danvers carrots are great for a wide variety of applications. They can be used for juicing or raw snacking. They usually have a nice texture and that perfect carrot crunch that you want.
These are the longest of all the carrot types, sometimes reaching lengths of 12” or more. Because they get so long, these are not recommended unless you have soft, lush soils. They’ll never reach their maximum potential in hard, compact soils.
Imperator carrots are used in the commercial farming industry to create “baby carrots.” In case you didn’t know, there’s no such thing as a baby carrot. It’s just a long Imperator carrot that is whittled into smaller pieces.
Thousands of gardeners have been tuning in to The Lazy Dog Farm YouTube channel where Travis covers a variety topics ranging from how to successfully start seedlings to how to make a flavorful hotsauce that packs a punch. Accompanied by his wife Brooklyn and their two boys, the gardens on their 2 acre homestead in southwest Georgia are always filled with a wide variety of vegetables that are enjoyed fresh or preserved for later.