Harvesting Kaleidoscope Carrots in Winter

The last of the Kaleidoscope carrots were harvested from RRA's Square Foot Garden beds on March 7th.

Can you believe that at the Arboretum we've been harvesting and enjoying carrots all winter?

A brief history lesson on carrots: Carrot is a root crop which was first cultivated in Afghanistan and Iran. This popular vegetable was not originally orange in color; hues of purple, white and yellow were the norm. Around the 17th century the Dutch, who were known as carrot farmers, developed a variety of carrots which contained a higher beta-carotene content, which accounts for the bright orange color. In honor of their reigning Monarch, William of Orange, they began growing these orange carrots to the exclusion of the other colors. Although we tend to eat just the taproot, both the root and the leaves of the carrot are edible.

But let's get back to the Square Foot Garden at Reeves-Reed Arboretum. The carrots in our garden started as tiny seeds sown by a young girl (the visiting granddaughter of the Garber Family) who participated in the summer 2016 Let's Get Growing! program. Although she was not around to see the fruits of her labor, the guests and staff of the Arboretum have been harvesting and enjoying these delicious treats throughout the fall and winter months.

How wonderful it is to sow your carrot seeds in the summer and discover a pop of brilliant color in the bleakest of winter days. The carrots ranged in colors from your traditional orange, to purple, golden yellow, and a creamy white, which resembled a parsnip. Their size ranged from stubby and round to long and skinny and yet others were as large as an Asian daikon. And the taste was a pleasant sweetness.

What lessons have I learned from my carrot experience? Carrots store very well in the ground through freezing and thawing. They are slow to get rooted, but once set they get sweeter and grow better in cooler temperatures. Historically, carrots were grown for their leaves and seeds, So yes, carrot leaves are edible! In fact, I think that the leaves taste just like the carrot root itself. And last but not least, purple carrots might be purple on the outside, but cut into one and you'll discover that they can be orange in color on the inside.