Round carrot varieties are easy to grow in pots
The ace is the top or highest ranking card in a deck, so a top fighter pilot is called an ace. During World War II, Britain’s Air Ministry said the reason British aces or airmen could detect and shoot down German bombers even at night was because the airmen ate a diet rich in carrots. Carrots (Daucus carota) of course contain lots of vitamin A, a vitamin essential for good eyesight. The real reason the British Royal Air Force was so successful was that they had a secret new radar system.
For gardeners who want something little known or under the radar, there is a whole group of carrots that offer something novel and delicious. These are round carrots harvested about the size of golf balls.
Round carrots varieties include Thumbelina, Early Horn, Mini Round, Golden Ball and possibly the most famous, Paris Market or Parisian Rondo. Paris Market dates back to the mid- 1800s.
If you can not find round carrot seeds locally, try mail order seed houses such as Seed Savers Exchange (www.Seedsavers.org, phone 563-382-5990) or Park Seed (www.Parkseed.com or phone 800-845-3369.)
All of these round carrots grow more like radishes than familiar long, skinny carrots. The tiny one- to two-inch-round roots are bright red-orange and very sweet.
You can plant carrots as early in the spring as the ground can be worked. Plant the tiny seeds about one-half inch apart just one-quarter inch deep in rows 16 to 24 inches apart. Pat the soil down over the seeds and water thoroughly. You can use an old trick to keep the soil moist, but not soggy, by placing a flat board over the rows. Check daily and remove the board as soon as the seeds sprout. Carrot seeds often take a long time to germinate, so be patient. For a steady supply of round carrots, sow seeds every two weeks through out the season.
Carrots do best in light loam with a soil pH of 6.0 to 6.8. Go easy on the fertilizer, or you can end up with lots of leaves and irregular-shaped roots.
Due to their small, round roots, these ball carrots are great for growing in pots. Fill your pots or containers with a good potting soil or sifted garden soil. After filling the pots, water the soil well to let it settle in and to moisten it thoroughly. Do this before you plant the carrot seeds so you don’t disturb them once they’re planted.
If you use a commercial potting soil, choose one that does not contain added plant food or fertilizer, because ball carrots do just fine without them.
Because carrots are biennials, they store energy in their roots to sprout the following year, and go to seed. The seed stalk is tall, with a flowering head or umbel that looks much like its wild cousin Queen Anne’s Lace. Beware that they can and will cross-pollinate with wild Queen Anne’s Lace, so if you are saving seeds, you will have to put the carrots inside insect-proof screen cages.
Besides vitamin A, carrots contain lots of vitamins C, B6, and niacin.
Plant some round carrots in pots or the garden and enjoy the crunchy goodness of these sweet roots. Their vitamins and nutrition may not give you night vision, but they will make you an ace.