Sunday, 12 January 2014

An Unexpected Glut of Carrots

I wrote this post several days ago, but forgot to publish it!
So any keen followers may notice a few errors in continuity!
Here goes...

Buoyed on by my successful digging yesterday (last weekend), I decided to spend today (last Monday), my last day before school term starts (I've actually been back a week), digging.

Now that all the weeds have died down, a few carrot tops had become visible. I know I should have harvested them ages ago... Long story ... which I'm about to bore you all with.

Despite all my attempts, for several years I have been outwitted by a very, very small fly. I've never even knowingly seen it, or its grubs, but whenever I dig up my carrots they are spoilt by a mosaic of dirty tunnels. There are two blunt-ended solutions which I could adopt. One is to erect a two foot high barrier around my carrot beds. The other is to cover them with fleece throughout the growing season. Neither of these is very practical on my site, though not impossible. There is a third option too. Not to grow carrots. They are cheap in the shops, taste nice and are always perfect. But I just like the idea of growing my own. I know that they are chemical free, I've got the land and you get thousands of seeds for not a lot of money.

To be fair, the first year I grew them, in London, my carrots did well and only a few were affected by carrot fly. And the first year I grew them here it was a similar story. But it's been downhill from there.

Last year I couldn't even get my carrots growing at all, repeated efforts at sowing being defeated by cold, waterlogged ground and a plague of slugs.
This year I came up with a cunning plan to defeat the carrot flies. I decided to grow my rows of carrots in amongst mixes of annual flowers. The theory was that the flies' sense of smell, which they use to search and destroy carrots, is confused and distracted by the bountiful floral aromas of the blooms. In practice, I couldn't tell which seedlings were weeds and which were pretty flowers. Conditions for growth, apart from a cold start, were good this year and all of a sudden, before I knew it, I had beds of thick growth towering high and covering the ground. The only problem was that the poor little carrot plants, slow to germinate, got swamped, lost. To make matters worse, the bed never ended up looking very pretty anyway.
I had long given up on a crop of carrots, but as the annuals and weeds died down, there were the lines of carrot tops, a bit patchy but some had made it through. But it was now very late in the season and the voles had been at work - the same voles which have been helping themselves to my potatoes, attacking from underground, and the same voles which have gnawed away my celeriac bulbs, cleverly leaving the foliage still growing to hide their crime!
I knew that the carrots had been in too long now and that the carrot flies (and probably a few slugs) would have been attacking them from  underground too.
So, to paraphrase this tale of woe, I messed up on the carrots and abandoned them...till today. Today when, for some unknown reason, I decided to salvage what I could of the crop. I knew that hardly any would be suitable for storage and I wasn't wrong. But with a bit of peeling and a lot of chopping, I did manage to get quite a pile of carrots. Nowhere near as much as I should be able to get, but at least it was something.
Next problem - what to do with them? I could just slice and dice, blanch and freeze, but this really seemed quite a pointless exercise. I might as well just buy them from the supermarket.

Carrot and Coriander soup, Carrot and Cumin soup,
Carrot Cake, Carrot, Lime and Ginger juice.
All delicious!
So I came up with a three point plan.

Carrot soup. Carrot cake. Carrot juice.

I considered carrot wine, but thought better of it. Besides, I could probably make this just as well from cheap bags of 'horse carrots'.

A few hours later, et voila!


  1. Hi John at least you have salvaged them. I have prepared a load of Carrot and Swede crush for the freezer today. Have you tried growing the carrots in a large square block but on the outer sides grow chive plants for the same reasons you popped the flowers in. I found it has helped (when I have grown veg in the past) plus you get lots of nice chives to add to your food as well. Supposedly the carrot fly do not like the smell of the oniony chives. Carrot wine/whisky is very nice as well my grandmother used to make it.

    Keep up the good work


  2. Hi Pattypan, carrot whisky is definitely on the cards for next year, though it'll be a long time before I get to drink any. I didn't talk about it much in this post, but I do also grow my carrots in rows between rows of onions / garlic / spring onions. I do think this works to some extent and I'll be going back to that plan this year. I wonder, too, whether chives may deter the voles. I know that rabbits are supposed to not like crossing them.


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