Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Carrot wars and rainbows

I'm growing two types of carrot in the veg plot at the moment. I bought the seeds a few years ago to sow in pots, therefore I picked varieties that I could harvest as baby carrots.

Not knowing then of course that you can use any type of carrot as baby carrots, you just pull them up before they're fully grown. Ah well, I'm better informed now. Still with our clay soil it's a good idea to stick to the shorter ones anyway.

So I grabbed some of each for dinner today, to do a taste comparison. Boiled for just a couple of minutes, then served with a little butter and parsley.

In the blue corner... Parmex. In my stupidity I didn't get a pic of these guys, so here's one from Thompson&Morgan instead. They can afford the bandwidth.

Designed to be very stumpy and ball-shaped. Mine are slightly more traditional-carrot-shaped than that (although the smaller ones are pretty round), maybe an inch in diameter and a little bit longer than that with a pointy end.

And in the red corner, the catchily-named Amsterdam Forcing 3-Sprint. Looks basically like a normal carrot. I did get a pic a few days ago.

The Parmex pic makes them look really dull (since it's obviously photoshopped), but they are a lovely orange colour, with a great perfumed carrot smell when you pull them up.

My prediction before the trial was that Amsterdam Forcing would taste better, based on the intensity of fragrance.

Michael had no such preconceptions, but we both agreed on our favourite... sure enough, the Amsterdam. Tastes sweeter and more "carroty", and the texture is better too, firmer. We have a winner!

* * *

Thinking about carrots made me remember that you can get purple carrots*, and I thought I'd have a look for some kind of mixed pack of seeds of different colours. I was disappointed. All I could find was mixtures with orange, yellow and white. Almost all were F1 hybrids (bah).

So instead I bought separate packets of red, purple, yellow and white from eBay, at a total cost of about £4.50. I'm intending to mix them with the Amsterdam Forcing I already have and sow them all together to create my own rainbow carrot mix. I'll happily swap some of them if anyone's interested.

And completely randomly, here's a dish I prepared a few days ago using garden veg. It's a stir-fry with chicken, noodles, purple kale, spinach, chard, rapini and mangetout peas. Wasn't bad at all.

*Carrots also come in yellow, white, purple and as I discovered today, red! How pretty!!


  1. Interesting stuff about the carrots Anna. I tried to grow my own last year, but the slugs put pay to that idea big time. Morrisons is my friend nowadays. I buy the organic ones which have a nice flavour. I used to always get the ones with the name that sounds like Chardonnay, sure its not that cos that is a wine, lol. but I suddenly found they weren't as sweet. I mainly buy mine for the guinea pigs though!

  2. Last year was a really bad year for slugs apparently. I haven't seen any near the carrots this year, but they seem to like the purple sprouting broccoli leaves. Not doing much damage though, I think the birds keep taking them. They certainly take the caterpillars.

    You mean Chantenay carrots I think, short wedge-shaped ones? Can the piggies tell the difference?

  3. I had no idea that carrots came in so many varieties! And I've never seen a round carrot. I suppose that's the problem with shopping in America - everything is so uniform and homogenized that variety doesn't sell in the grocery and we all end up eating long, orange carrots.

    I'm beginning to wish the pool would hurry up and die.

  4. Apparently carrots were originally yellow/white or purple, and were bred to be orange by patriotic Dutchmen. The orange carrots just kind of took over, and now it's the colour we expect carrots to be.

    We have a similar thing with supermarkets over here - my local Sainsbury's sells mostly the normal long orange carrot and occasionally Chantenay types (but these are part of their expensive range). Hopefully things are slowly changing though, partly because there's a market now for "foodie" ingredients and partly because of this massive superfood/antioxidant kick we're all supposed to be on.

    Apparently purple carrots were sold in English supermarkets a while back and weren't at all popular - but I reckon they'd go well now if people knew the health benefits. Plus, what a fun way to get kids to eat them!

  5. I grew some purple carrots last year and wasn't at all impressed with the taste. The year before I grew some orange ones, Nantes I believe they were called, and just pulling them out of the earth the smell of them was enough to put you on a high, tasted wonderful as well.

  6. Nothing like the smell of good carrots!

  7. We got purple carrots in our veg box. They went a bit more orange during the cooking process - guess the purple pigment is water soluble. Or summat.