Grocery Store Gardening: Carrot
This is a Grocery Store Gardener is always looking to extend food purchases. Finding additional ways to stretch your food in this buy, buy, buy world is always a benefit on the monthly budget as well as the nutritional boost to everyday meals. Growing carrot tops is about the best one for a child to practice growing their first plants too. Growing carrot tops is very easy.
Carrots were domesticated about the time mankind began to settle in permanent locations. Wild carrots trace their roots to South West Asia just where mankind first made cities. Eastern Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan seem to be the location with the most abundant wild species. These sub species producing variable colored roots were in abundance.
Domesticated varieties were soon produced. These quickly spread with mankind’s civilization. They became popular in Europe as well as India, China and then eventually to Japan. All these cool temperate regions soon grew and through selection developed the loved root vegetable we all know today.
Roots, Leaves and Seeds
The leaves as well as the root and even the seed are edible. People prefer the root most from this vegetable. Carrots come in a variety of colors. Orange just happens to be the commercial color of choice in the US. Other popular colors are purple and a creamy white and a deep red. Some of these less cultivated varieties are beginning to be found especially in local farmers markets.
They all share one concern. This is that the core of the root should be small in relation to the outer shell (some call this the wall and other names) on the root. And, the carrot should have a crunchy texture without stringy fibers. The carrot should have a sweet flavor too. Bitterness is not tolerated in the carrot.
Leaves are also used much as parsley. Some fear to eat carrot leaves. Conjecture is that those people are confusing Queen Anne’s Lace with Carrot. Queen Anne’s Lace foliage is strikingly similar to Carrot. The taproot is smaller. Queen Anne’s Lace is not edible while the Carrot is. The leaves of Carrots are edible. Most choose the smaller more tender leaves to add to salads. The larger leaves can be tough and more bitter.
The seeds of Carrots are also edible. No recipes seem to use them. There are reports that Carrot seed may be able to prevent pregnancies in women who consume them. This has a folklore tradition of blogs and articles about consuming Carrot seed. It is not recommended to consider using this seed for this purpose without medical supervision.
Growing the Greens
Be sure to buy carrots that still have tops attached. Carrots in cellophane packages have had their tops removed mechanically. The tops are twisted off. This process often destroys the active growing part of the top so that it will not grow leaves again.
I typically soak my Carrots in a cup of water so that the top inch or two is above the water line. I try to allow a couple days for soaking. This soaking re-hydrates the Carrot since it was harvested by the farmer. This is especially important for the greens. The root withdraws moisture from leaves first to keep the root from dehydrating. Soaking encourages the root to supply necessary moisture to the leaves.
Take off any broken leaves. Once a leaf stem is creased or the leaves are removed from the stem it is no longer of any use. Take the stem off down near the top of the Carrot. Also remove the large leaves. These will fall over. The Carrot will attempt to abort these anyway. There should only be a few small leaves left on your carrot when you finish trimming.
Soil and Container
The heart wrenching truth is that a new root will not grow back. Once in a blue moon you may have one that regenerates. However, hair roots will come off the stump that is left. The container you grow your tops in need not be very deep because of this. Creative and artistic gardeners often choose shallow bonsai type containers. The green tufts that grow up out of these flat containers can be attractive.
Other types of containers to consider are unglazed terra cotta. The container in these images is for a glazed container with holes designed for orchids root culture. The idea behind these containers is to allow for air movement as well as to prevent standing water. Carrot like a well drained soil. Too much water is bad for them.
The soil should be light and airy. Adding additional perlite to a quality packaged media will provide adequate air movement while still holding enough moisture for the root and plant.
Most of the Carrot hybrids will not produce viable seed. Most commercial Carrots are hybrids. The frugal Grocery Store Gardener will have flowers followed by seed from the tops grown during the winter. You will want to put your growing tops in a larger container once the winter is over and they are moved outside. They can also be planted in the vegetable garden. Carrots are biennial. It for this reason the tuber won't re-grow. The tap is part of the growing cycle that leads to flower production. Seek open pollinated heirloom Carrots in the event you hope for viable seed to harvest.
This is the perfect project for children. Growing carrot tops is so easy that they will soon develop a strong interest in growing other plants with this success. Care for these is minimal. A good strong window location with periodic watering will soon reward your child with a thick cloud of leaves. The leaves regenerate quickly too.
Finding new ways or perhaps better uses for re-cycling food is the ultimate of green living. Fresh nutritious greens are your reward. And these new plants require little care. Vegetarian Times has a posted recipe for warm Chickpeas with Carrot greens and lemon juice that is wonderful. Bon Appetit has a posted recipe for a pesto that utilizes both Carrot greens and Basil. Here is a simple recipe that is fast and easy to try:
Boil some cubed potatoes. When tender, drain them well. Then toss with Butter, chopped Carrot tops, diced Green Onions and season with salt and pepper. Yummy.