Carrots

Carrots (Daucus carota).

Again, no photos. But hoping for the best as the growing season progresses.

As I mentioned in the post Spinach, Michael Pollan, in Second Nature, was not successful in growing carrots until he tried thinking like a carrot. As a carrot, Pollan wanted shoulder room and lighter soil. After lightening his clayey soil with builder’s sand, peat moss, and compost, Pollan thinned his carrots ruthlessly, first to one inch apart, and a month later, still wider apart. And guess what. Pollan grew beautiful, long, broad-shouldered carrots.

Pollan was thinking like a carrot, but he didn’t actually write it that way. That phrase, of thinking like something in nature, comes, so far as I know, from Aldo Leopold.

In Sand County Almanac, first published in 1949, Leopold titles one small essay “Thinking Like a Mountain.” In it, he recounts how, as a young man, he shot a female wolf in the midst of her pups, believing at that time that fewer wolves mean more deer for hunters and greater safety for cattle herds. That the only good wolf is a dead one. He reaches the female wolf, most of the pups get away, in time to watch, as he says, a fierce green light dying in her eyes, and comes to understand what the wolf, and the mountain on which the wolf dies, already know–that wolves are important in the balance of nature, that deer without wolves will multiply and put themselves and the environment at risk. And so, Leopold, while in the U.S. Forest Service in the early twentieth century, gains a radically different perspective on wildlife ecology, thanks to the dying female wolf, and comes to think like a mountain, that is, to think like something old enough with a broad enough perspective to understand the role of a wolf objectively. You have to read it yourself to get the full impact of Leopold’s remarkable story.

Well, that’s a long way from carrots, and yet the ideas are similar. I often remind myself to try to think like a mountain, or a lowly carrot. The possibilities are endless.

In Four-Season Harvest, Eliot Coleman has several good insights on carrots. First, that carrots, as root crops, absorb and concentrate pesticides, herbicides, and heavy metals found in soil. So, carrots are one of those vegetables that are well worth the time and effort to grow organically, or to buy as organic produce. Sometimes it doesn’t even cost more to buy organically, and you can feel good about supporting organic growers. However, I do also understand about food deserts, having lived in a few myself, but that’s for another post. I’m digressing too much for poor carrots to bear.

Coleman also recommends using leaf mold in carrot beds, best incorporated into the soil in the fall. Ideal pH for carrots is around 6.5. Greensand is good for carrots.

One other tip from Coleman that may enlighten my failures with carrots. It’s important to keep the soil moist during germination, even to the extent of sprinkling with a hose several time a day. Lots of water is required even after the little leafy fronds appear. I think that’s been my problem. Duly noted.

Thin seedlings to 2 inches. Pollan was on the right track there. I should mention that carrots are always directly sown in the garden. Taproot plants resent transplanting. I love that term for plants, which is often encountered. They resent transplanting. OK for them.

So, I hope I have a carrot plan. Lighten the soil. Test pH. Add lime and rock minerals as needed. Peat moss is good. Direct seed from early spring to mid-summer. Water obsessively. Thin ruthlessly. Be happy I am an organic gardener. Remember to incorporate leaf mold in raised beds for carrots in the fall looking forward to next year. Lots to think about.

I have 4 carrot seed varieties. 3 hybrids. 1 specialty carrot.

Nelson F1. Hybrid carrot. Early. Sweet. 56 days from planting to harvest.

Napoli F1. Hybrid carrot. Early. Organic seed. OK for spring planting, but particularly good for planting in fall for winter harvest. Use row covers. 58 days from planting in spring to harvest; more in fall planting.

Bolero F1. Hybrid carrot. Reliable storage carrot. Good choice for fall and winter harvest. 75 days from planting to harvest.

Nutri-red. Specialty carrot. New for Johnny’s and for me. Coral-red carrot. Strong carrot flavor. Great for stews. Sounds yummy.

In the movie, Girl with a Pearl Earring, a maid named Griet works in the home of Vermeer, the artist, in 1665. Vermeer becomes attracted to Griet and does the famous painting of her because she understands his aesthetic endeavors better than his wife or anyone else in his household. In the early scenes of the movie, Griet is shown slicing carrots in a basement kitchen. The carrots are varied in color from white to purple to red. I really have to watch this movie again, but I think the carrot scene is one of the first to tip the viewer off to Griet’s aesthetic sensitivities, which are a vital aspect of the movie. So, I hope Nutri-red specialty carrots are not only delicious in stews but also remind me of Griet and Vermeer.

I call this post loaded with cultural baggage about carrots. I just hope my carrots are broad-shouldered, and long, and colorful. And taste delicious. Without pesticide or herbicide residue. And no heavy metals. That would be a good thing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s