Carrots are fun and easy to grow. If you are new or working with kids I can’t recommend them enough. For me though? Enh.
You see, I have acidic sandy soil and there is no amount of lime or manure that will permanently change that. This means every single carrot variety I grow looks beautiful but is, at best, mildly bitter. At worst, downright miserable aftertaste. I tend to grow them because they are fun a pretty and relatively easy, but I don’t devote much space to them and I don’t go through the effort to preserve them. That and because I’m hopelessly optimistic that one day they’ll be sweet.
I know the carrots I can get at the grocery store and local markets will be markedly sweeter than mine, so I leave it to them. But, in case you have better (sweeter/alkaline) soil than me, I absolutely recommend growing them!
Time to Maturity: 45-65 days means almost anyone can grow them.
Diseases & Pests: Carrot Root Fly (we don’t have this near me), Alternaria Leaf Blight, Black Rot, Powdery Mildew, and a few more. I have honestly never had a disease problem with carrots, so your mileage on resistant varieties may vary. This would be a great topic to ask a local gardener before choosing a variety.
Key Words: Sweet, Uniform, No Core. These are the big three in my opinion. Varieties that resist splitting can be great too- the importance of this will depend entirely on how dense your soil is.
Use: I think all carrot varieties, when grown in sweet soil, are great for fresh eating and cooked any way possible. Look more for shape and color, though the color is more impactful when preserved (pickled) or eaten fresh.
What I’ve Grown in the Past: I won’t lie to you and tell you I have a favorite. But I will share with you what I’ve grown before- and it is A LOT. They’ve all been strong growers with no issues. The purple varieties are striking and a joy to pull out of the dirt!
- Muscade: Stout orange variety
- Atomic Red: Not really all that red, more of a deep orange. Typical carrot shape.
- Koral: I’ve liked this one the best of all I’ve grown. Typical carrot but I’d imagine it to be beautifully sweet in proper soil.
- Cosmic Purple: Beautiful purple skin with orange flesh.
- Jaune Obtuse du Dobs: Lovely mild yellow carrot.
- St. Valery: Long, very tapered orange carrot.
- Paris Market: Chubby and round orange carrot. Very fun to grow and roast whole.
- Scarlet Nantes: Another traditional orange carrot.
- Danvers: Chunky orange carrot, great for clay soils.
- Red Cored Chantenay: Orange carrot with a reddish core, traditional shape.
Growing Notes: Carrots do like sandy soil, but will happily grow in any soil type. Thicker, claggy soil will likely result in splitting and carrots with legs, but shouldn’t impact the taste at all. Do be sure to thin them out. Resist all temptation to leave them all thickly sown and lush, it will do you no good going forward! And don’t hesitate to leave a few in until after your first frost, they can take a bit of cold and it helps bring out the sweetness.