Saving Carrot Seeds

Learn how to save carrot seeds.

| October 2015

  • In areas where winter temperatures are too cold or too warm for in-ground vernalization, carrots can be layered in wood shavings and vernalized in cold storage.
    Photo courtesy Seed Savers Exchange
  • Individual carrot flowers are small, but they are held in compound umbels and collectively are quite showy. Each flower sheds pollen before its stigma is receptive, giving insects an essential role in the pollination of carrot plants.
    Photo courtesy Seed Savers Exchange
  • Individual carrot flowers are small, but they are held in compound umbels and collectively are quite showy. Each flower sheds pollen before its stigma is receptive, giving insects an essential role in the pollination of carrot plants.
    Photo courtesy Seed Savers Exchange
  • At maturity, the fruits of carrots dry and turn brown. Carrot umbellets often curve inward, giving the entire infructescence the appearance of a bird’s nest.
    Photo courtesy Seed Savers Exchange
  • Filled with advice for the home gardener and the seasoned horticulturist alike, “The Seed Garden: The Art and Practice of Seed Saving” provides straightforward instruction on collecting seed that is true-to-type.
    Cover courtesy Seed Savers Exchange

The Seed Garden (Seed Savers Exchange, 2015) by Micaela Colley & Jared Zystro and edited by Lee Buttala & Shanyn Siegel brings together decades of research and hands-on experience to teach both novice gardeners and seasoned horticulturists how to save the seeds of their favorite vegetable varieties.

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: The Seed Garden.

Carrots are a popular garden crop, but they pose several challenges for seed savers—the most notable of these being their ability to cross-pollinate with wild carrot, or Queen Anne’s lace. Ubiquitous in the Northeast and Midwest and common in most other regions of the United States, the weedy form of the species forces gardeners to carefully manage the isolation of cultivated carrots grown for seed. Carrots also require vernalization; however, because of their small size, carrot roots can be vernalized in a refrigerator, which is not as feasible for many other biennial crops.

Crop Types

Beyond the many hues of orange that seed cata­logs typically offer, carrot varieties can be found in a wide range of root colors including white, yellow, red, purple, and black. Carrot roots can be a single color throughout or display one color on the exterior and a different color in the interior.



Carrots are broadly grouped into types based on shape: Imperator, Nantes, Danvers, and Chantenay. Imperator carrots are very long, with tips that gently taper to a point; these are the carrots most commonly found in supermar­kets. Nantes carrots are slightly shorter than Imperator carrots and have tips that are blunt rather than pointed. Danvers carrots are about as long as Nantes, but thicker, and Chantenay carrots are the shortest and thickest of the carrot types. Widely grown by food processors to make canned and prepared food, Danvers and Chantenay carrots are often preferred by home gardeners because their sturdy roots can be grown more successfully in heavier soils than Nantes and Imperator types. In addition to the common market classes, there are also specialty types including small round carrots, such as ‘Thumbelina’, and the large ‘Oxheart’ carrot, which has wide shoulders and short roots that may weigh up to 1 pound each. As with most root vegetables, carrots have a history in the United States of being used for both forage and fodder.

History

Carrots originated in Afghanistan sometime before the tenth century CE. From Afghanistan, carrots spread west to Europe and east to China. Based on historical record, literature, and art, the earliest cultivated carrots are believed to have been yellow or purple rather than the bright orange primarily associated with them today. Carrots were grown in Europe for several hundred years before the orange carrot rose to prominence in the seventeenth century.






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