Have you ever found yourself growing the same varieties of a vegetable every year, with limited success, yet never trying another one?
Well, I have. This has been my attitude with carrots, right from the very start. I’ve grown Early Nantes and Autumn King – nothing else, and no questions asked.
I don’t really know why. They just seemed to be the ones that everyone said were reliable and easy. All the seed catalogues had glowing testimonies to their greatness. Maybe another reason was its bountiful availability. Every magazine and newspaper seemed happy to dish out free Early Nantes and Autumn King at the start of the season. I’ve got packets and packets of them.
Good Rude Shaped Carrots, Poor Eating Ones
I’ve never really succeeded with these carrots. I’d guess this is to do with my stony soil, which forces the carrots to split every time they encounter something in the soil I have the same problem with parsnips. It’s brilliant for comedy phallic veg, not so for big, strong and tasty carrots.
Early Scarlet Horn
However, this year, a gardening chum handed me a packet of Early Scarlet Horn, and finally, I’ve been inspired to try something different.
The Early Scarlet Horn carrot originates from the town of Hoorn in the Netherlands and was common on the Amsterdam market in 1610. On inspection of the seed packet, they look short and stubby, which led me to wonder whether a dumpy carrot would do better in stony soils.
The soil in my garden is both stony and heavy, so these baby carrots sound just the job. I may have to grow twice as many, but they do look tantalisingly sweet.
Two More to Try
Other varieties I have stumbled upon which look useful and intriguing for us stony soilers are the spherical Parmex and Paris Market.
Parmex is a rounded, bite-sized carrot, and like the Horn, is early maturing. Thompson and Morgan suggest them ideal for growing in containers and state the short roots cope well with clay soils.
Paris Market is also recommended for heavy soil and containers, and feature heavily by Naomi Schillinger from Out of My Shed in her forthcoming book, Veg Street.
With an increasing interest in container growing, and heavier soil than I was used to at the allotment, all three of these varieties are very tempting.
I’ve sown some Early Scarlet Horn in a container in the greenhouse, while I await delivery of a packet of Parmex.
I feel rather liberated to move away from the standard carrot varieties and try something else. I’m sure I’ll still try a few Early Nantes and Autumn King, but growing the shorter carrots will provide a useful little comparison once the season gets going properly.