R.J. Ruppenthal  @  ChelseaGreen

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Long Orange Firecrackers

Posted on Thursday, July 19th, 2012 at 12:00 am by R.J. Ruppenthal

In our home garden, we just picked carrots this week. From one raised bed, my kids unearthed an armload of long orange firecrackers. Picking carrots, potatoes, and root/tuber vegetables is such a satisfying harvest. There is something special about bringing up buried treasure: you're never quite sure what is hidden until you pull it out of the ground.

Most people love the taste of carrots, which are very nutritious and versatile in the kitchen. Their sweet, earthy flavors are a welcome addition to almost any dish, sweet or savory. But quite honestly, the only carrots that get cooked at our house are the ones we buy in the store. The ones we grow don't make it to the kitchen; they are so much tastier that they are eaten first.

Homegrown carrots are so good we tend to eat them all raw. When the kids are pulling up carrots, they don't even want to wash them before taking a bite. Once the roots are rinsed, my kids will eat two or three large carrots before they slow down. We put them in school lunch boxes and they disappear. There's no shortage of vitamin A this time of year.

As soon as we pick carrots, a light bulb flashes in my head. It's the reminder to plant more carrot seeds, which I plan to do very soon!  Carrots prefer cool temperatures, so in the hot days of late summer, give them plenty of water and perhaps a little shade.

In a mild climate, you can grow carrots year-round. If your winters are cold, hard frosts and temperatures in the teens will kill off the foliage, but carrot roots can remain in the ground even into winter. Just cover them with a thick mulch, say six inches of leaves, straw, or sawdust, which should protect the roots for now. If your soil stays workable, you can dig them up as needed over the winter. Otherwise, you should get them out before the ground freezes up solid or else wait until early spring to pull them out. When you buy seed, you can look for overwintering varieties if this is what you plan to do.

For more information on growing carrots and other hardy cool season vegetables, please see my Fresh Food From Small Spaces book and several of my online articles/e-booklets, which are available here. If you're a parent, involving kids in the garden is the best way to get them interested in eating their veggies. Carrots may be the easiest place to start. If your kids don't like the ones from the store, wait till they taste real homegrown carrots!

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