Welcome to Homegrown/Homemade, a video series from FineGardening.com and our sister site FineCooking.com. We’ll be following a gardener (Danielle Sherry) and a cook (Sarah Breckenridge) as they plant, maintain, harvest, store, and prepare food crops. Now that the peas, arugula, potatoes, and blueberries are planted, they turn their attention to carrots.
Episode 2: How to Care for Carrots
Sarah and Danielle interplanted the carrot bed with radishes, which grow faster than carrots and start to crowd them. Once this happens, it’s time to start pulling the radishes, largest first (both the radishes themselves and their leaves are delicious at this stage, so use them in salads or cooking). If the carrots are still too close together, snip some of the tops to open up the spacing. Dispose of the carrot so as not to attract carrot perfume fly. Carrots need about an inch of space all around to develop properly.
Carrots can be tricky to grow. If your carrots are deformed or stunted, there are three probable causes: rocky soil, not enough space between plants, and not enough water. Carrots are thirsty plants and need frequent, regular water, especially when the seedlings are small.
As for spacing, seedlings should be about 1 inch apart to develop properly. You can achieve this spacing by thinning, or you can sow the seed thinly. Carrot seeds are small and difficult to space individually. Mixing the seed with sand before planting will reduce the need for thinning. Another clever trick is to mix the carrot seed with radish seed. The radishes grow much faster than the carrots, so you get two crops in the same space. It’s instant succession planting.
How do you know when your carrots are ready to harvest? There are several things to look for. Carrots should be ready to harvest two to three months after planting. The tops should be thick, bright green, and about 8 to 10 in. long. Check at the base of the stem; the carrots should look thick, though, if you’ve planted them closely, some may be smaller than others. Harvest with a digging fork to loosen the carrots from the soil to prevent breakage.
You can keep carrots in the fridge crisper drawer, but baby carrots will start to lose their flavor after about five days. If you want to keep them longer than that, whip up a batch of quick carrot pickles. Toast coriander seed in a saucepan, then add white wine, boil, and reduce. Meanwhile, peel the carrots (or just scrub them), Next, boil the carrots in salted water and cook until tender, then immerse them in ice water to stop the cooking.
In another pot, heat honey over medium-high heat, and add champagne vinegar, sherry vinegar, and continue to cook the brine. Then add the coriander/wine reduction and simmer the mix.
Place the carrots in a clean jar and pour in the brine mix, let cool, and refrigerate. They’ll last for about three weeks, if you don’t eat them sooner.
Recipe: Maple Pan-Roasted Baby Carrots
Roasting with maple syrup makes carrots even sweeter than they are fresh. Peel and trim the carrots, then sear them in a cast-iron pan coated with a little oil. Stir occasionally, and after a minute or two, add maple syrup, kosher salt, and pepper. Place the pan in the oven and roast 12 to 15 minutes at 400°F.
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