What about Carrots, Parsnips...?January 20th, 2009
Carrots and parsnips are both excellent served as boiled vegetables and cooked in soups and stews. They are hearty sources of carbohydrates as well as vitamins and minerals. This is very important to anyone who is actually hungry. We live in a time when diet foods are constantly promoted for having few calories. That is good for couch potato TV watchers, and those whose life's 'work' is behind a desk. When we need to be more active, we will need to eat more calories.
Carrots are easy to grow, but need to be thinned and weeded carefully by hand for the best yields. They can be harvested early as a tender vegetable, or left until late fall. Summer and Fall harvests can be made when ever you like. That makes them ideal to serve before and after the shell beans are ready, and the same can be done with other crops too. They keep well into the Winter in a root cellar [a damp moist place just above freezing, with some ventilation, but little light]. They are usually packed in leaves or clean sand to keep them from drying out and becoming soft or limp. A refrigerator crisper will work too.
Parsnips are similar, but this large white root is best left in the ground all Winter, and dug in the early Spring. That means you get a harvest of a starchy vegetable at a very good time of year, when nothing else like it is ready. They don't keep for months like carrots, but can be enjoyed for a month or so. If it gets very rainy, dig them all, and store them in a cool moist but not wet place.
Both of these crops like a deep loose soft rich soil, which has both moisture and drainage. Sometimes they are grown in beds. With hand weeding, an awful lot of food can be grown in a small area. It is intensive for both the harvest AND the gardener. Raised beds help with drainage, but require regular rain or watering.
These two garden crops have a lot going for them, so why aren't they in our Garden Collection, or offered in our packets? It is the same reason as for Onions. The seed just does NOT keep long enough. You should buy fresh new carrot and parsnip seeds at least every other year, from a reputable, high volume company which also sells to farmers. Farmers will know immediately if they got bad seeds, and not buy again. A company cannot stay in business for years like that.
These two important root crops are biennials, growing the 'fruit' [part you eat] the first year, and flowering and producing seed the second year. Select carrots which have kept well in storage for replanting. The parsnips will have over Wintered in the ground, and you can dig and move them, or let them grow in the same place. Once these plants go to seed they look similar, but they will not cross breed with each other, so you can grow both kinds of seed the same year. Either one will cross with certain wild plants within a quarter mile or so. We have wild plants which cross a little with both carrots and parsnips here at our farm. The first generation looks fine, but gradually other traits appear. A green house or a plant covering could protect them from cross pollination. For now, we don't produce seed to sell for either of these root crops, but we don't mind working with them for ourselves. This is an opportunity for you to start a local Cottage Industry if you live in an area without cross pollinators or are willing to manage the protective coverings.