Best carrots for pots, beginners and good health
It’s sure to get the thumbs up from Bugs Bunny… 2019 has been designated the Year of the Carrot, but there’s more to this vegetable than a Sunday lunch accompaniment – or indeed its orange colour.
If you’re wondering who decides this, Fleuroselect Home Garden Association, an international non-profit organisation, chooses a vegetable and flower each year, designed to boost seed and plant sales.
Carrots in the wild were originally purple or white but in the 17th century, Dutch growers cultivated orange carrots as a tribute to William of Orange. Traditional yellow, white and purple carrots were virtually wiped out until the resurgence in heritage varieties.
Here are my choices for the year, focusing on ease of growing, those suitable for growing in containers and top colours (for health). For more on growing carrots, click here.
With short, conical roots, Caracas can be grown on heavier soils or in containers as baby carrots. It’s a Chantenay type, with rich orange, coreless flesh and an outstanding flavour. Good eaten fresh or stored, £2.49, www.thompson-morgan.co.uk.
A favourite commercial variety for restaurants but not well known as a carrot for home gardeners. Great for overwintering under protected cropping for an early spring crop.
The roots colour and flavour up when they are very young and much earlier than other varieties, meaning an early harvest of small, tender, sweet carrots.
Roots are a good shape and don’t get huge, remaining tender with a small core. Strong tops, excellent for bunching, £2.20, www.seaspringseeds.co.uk.
Paris Market Baron
A 19th-century French heirloom type, these tender, bite-sized, round carrots are perfect for beginners.
Early maturing and uniform, even in a window box, they are ideal for growing in shallow or stony soil. £1.65, www.plant-world-seeds.com.
Night Bird F1
This almost black variety is packed with purple anthocyanins, which are thought to be beneficial to heart health by helping reduce blood pressure if eaten regularly.
In tests, Night Bird had twice the level of anthocyanins of its nearest rival. It has a has a nuttier flavour than most carrots, James Wong Range, £3.49, www.suttons.co.uk.
New and exclusive, this extremely strong, reliable and tasty variety is resistant to breakage, splitting and disease.
It’s an excellent source of vitamin A and antioxidants, £3.05, www.mr-fothergills.co.uk.
An old French variety sometimes known as Guerande from Nantes. These snub-nosed carrots grow well in containers or shallow soil, reaching 10-13cm wide at the shoulder.
Sweet and tender, Oxheart is a quick grower and it’s an excellent keeper. Rob Smith Heritage Veg Range, £2.50, www.dobies.co.uk.
One of the best red varieties available, this maincrop Imperator-type carrot produces reliable, tasty crops. Recommended for roasting, £3.05, www.johnsons-seeds.com.
Carrot Seeds Cropping Programme
Perfect for an allotment when you want almost year-round roots. Included are:
- Amsterdam Sprint (Harvest April-September): One of the earliest and tastiest varieties. Lift as baby carrots, steam and toss in butter.
- Sugarsnax F1 (Harvest June-October): The sweetest carrot and high in beta-carotene which gives an extra rich colour. The long roots have disease resistance, it is slow to bolt and can be left in the ground with little deterioration.
- Senior F1 (Harvest November-May): A very late, vigorous maincrop, but it will stay in good condition in the garden until the following May. The long, cylindrical roots tolerate powdery mildew.
- Maestro F1 (Harvest August-January): Notable for its pest and disease resistance, this maincrop Nantes-type is a fast grower, giving smooth-skinned roots, £6.46, www.dtbrownseeds.co.uk.
A purple carrot that looks like roots did when they were first domesticated in the Middle East.
Fairly sweet with a decently strong ‘carrot’ flavour, with orange flesh inside, £2.37, www.realseeds.co.uk.
Carrot Aron F1
An unusual shaped 5-10cm half long stumpy carrot, early cropping and full of flavour. Ideal for clay soils or containers, £1.70, www.kingsseeds.com.
Carrot Jaune De Doubs
Rustic yellow variety from the French town of Doubs. Once used just for forage, but now prized for its culinary quality, £1.99, www.seedsofitaly.com.
Ruby Prince F1
A new carrot that is both pinky-red on the outside and inside. Packed full of lycopene, it is crisp, tasty and healthy, £1.95, www.chilternseeds.co.uk.