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Carrots you can count on for flavor.

What's the secret to growing them? Choose the right variety and plant seeds now

HARVESTING CRUNCHY, sweet carrots from the garden is one of the joys of growing vegetables. Plucked straight from the earth, they're more flavorful than any you can buy in the grocery store.

But flavor differs greatly among varieties, and planting time and maturity also affect flavor. In the mild-winter West, early fall is the best time to plant. Carrots achieve their sweetest taste when the last few weeks of growth occur in cool weather. Also, unless a carrot is bred to be harvested young, it won't develop full flavor until mature.

HOW TO GET THE BEST FLAVOR

Two ingredients determine a carrot's flavor: sugars and terpenoids (volatile compounds that impart the carrot flavor). Some varieties are naturally high in terpenoids, which make the carrots taste bitter or soapy. Because terpenoids develop earlier than sugars, a carrot that is harvested too young might taste bitter.

Commercial carrot varieties have been developed for uniformity of shape, as well as for color, disease resistance, and ease of harvest. But gardeners can select a carrot more for flavor than appearance. How do you choose the sweetest ones to grow?

Select a variety by type (carrots are normally grouped into Chantenay, Danvers, Imperator, Nantes, and Paris Market types; new hybrids blur the definitions). For flavor, it's difficult to beat a Nantes ('Bolero', 'Little Fingers', 'Toudo'), characterized by its blunt ends. It's not a carrot you'll find in the grocery store, because it's difficult to harvest commercially and doesn't store well. Chantenay ('Imperial Chantenay', 'Short 'n Sweet') has broad shoulders and strongly tapered tips. It has good flavor, performs in heavy soil, and stores well.

The sweet, round little Paris Market types ('Planet', 'Thumbelina') do well even in containers or in very heavy, shallow, or rocky soil.

'Belgium White', an heirloom variety, is white, mild tasting, and good for stews.

DON'T LET SEEDS DRY

Prepare the soil deeply with organic matter (not fresh manure, or carrots will develop fine, hairy roots). Soak before planting and scatter seeds thinly on top; cover with 1/4 inch of compost (this keeps soil from crusting, so seeds can punch through).

Germination takes 7 to 14 days. To help keep the tiny seeds moist, you can cover the seedbed with wet burlap just until they germinate.

Thin seedlings to 2 inches apart when they have two or three leaves. Allow carrots to mature fully before harvesting; most don't taste good as baby carrots unless they've been bred for this use, such as 'Caramba'. Varieties that store well can stay in the ground and be pulled as needed through midwinter.

WHERE TO BUY SEEDS

For the widest selection of varieties, order by mail. Catalogs are free unless noted.

W. Atlee Burpee & Co., 300 Park Ave., Warminster, Pa. 18991; (800) 888-1447. Sells seven kinds, including 'Short 'n Sweet' and 'Toudo'.

Nichols Garden Nursery, 1190 N. Pacific Highway, Albany, Ore. 97321; (503) 928-9280. Sells nine varieties, including 'A-Plus', 'Belgium White', and 'Thumbelina'.

Ornamental Edibles, 3622 Weedin Court, San Jose, Calif. 95132. Catalog $2. Sells five kinds, including 'A-Plus', 'Belgium White', and 'Little Fingers'.

Shepherd's Garden Seeds, 6116 Highway 9, Felton, Calif. 95018; (408) 335-5311. Catalog $1. Sells six kinds, including 'Bolero', 'Caramba', 'Imperial Chantenay', and 'Planet'.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Swezey, Lauren Bonar
Publication:Sunset
Date:Sep 1, 1993
Words:547
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