After last week's article encouraging you to plant carrots for a fall harvest, I had several questions about which variety to plant.
There are quite a few different types out there, and the best one for you will depend a lot on the soil in your garden and what you want to do with the carrots you grow (fresh eating, storing, cooking, etc.).
Probably one of the easiest carrot types for the home gardener to grow are Nantes. Nantes carrots are known for their long, cylindrical and blunt ends. These types of carrots are preferred by gardeners because they're easy to grow and don't require too much maintenance. Nantes carrots are also easily adaptable and can grow in almost any type of soil, including Mid-Missouri's clay soils.
A popular variety of Nantes is the Scarlet Nantes. They are high in sugar and don't develop a woody core. They are the best carrots for eating raw but generally don't keep as well as some other varieties. They are crisp and sweet and grow to about 7 inches long.
Bolero is another Nantes-type carrot that does well in our area and is resistant to alternaria blight and powdery mildew. I have not had a problem with either one of these diseases but they are out there. It is a high-yielder.
Imperator type carrots are the classic long, tapered roots you see in stores. These carrots do best in soil that has to be prepared to fine tilth at least a foot deep. Imperator carrots are usually grown by commercial farmers due to their high sugar content. These types of carrots can grow much longer than most other types, hence the need for deeper soil preparation.
One Imperator type you can grow in Mid-Missouri is Atomic red, if you have the deep, fine loam soil it likes. Atomic red has slim, tapered roots that can reach 11 inches. It is best when cooked. Atomic red's bright red tapered roots, high in lycopene, retain their red color even after cooking.
Next on the list are the Chantenay-type carrots. Chantenay carrots are short and stout, with broad 1- 3" crowns tapering quickly to a rounded point about 6 inches long. Before Nantes varieties were developed, these cone-shaped carrots were the only choice for gardeners growing carrots in heavy or rocky soils. They're still a favorite among home gardeners, but they can develop a "woody" core if left in the ground too long, so harvest Chantenay carrots early at 6-7 inches.
Red-Cored Chantenay is probably the most popular Chantenay type variety in our area. Red-Cored Chantenay can grow to about 7 inches (although mine rarely get that long) and have deep-orange roots with 2-inch shoulders and the cone shape of Chantaney carrots. This variety grows well in heavy soils and stays sweet in storage.
Yet another type of carrot that does well in heavy soils is the Danvers type. Although this heirloom has more fiber than the others, it is still a popular carrot in the home garden. Danvers grow and keep well in heavier soils and are great for canning and freezing.
For those of you that like container gardening, there are some "mini" varieties that work well in containers. Among them is Little Fingers, which is best picked at around 3-4 inches long. The Romeo variety grow round similar to a radish, so it also would work great in a container.
Whether you like your carrots long or short, I hope you'll plant some in your fall garden.
Peter Sutter is a lifelong gardening enthusiast and a participant in the MU Extension's Callaway County Master Gardener Program. Gardening questions can be sent to [email protected]