Landreth Seed of the Day – Nantes Carrot

The Nantes Carrot

The carrot is the second most popular vegetable in the world. Only the potato enjoys greater popularity. The vegetable probably originated in the area now occupied by Iran and Afghanistan, but quickly spread to southern Europe. In the wild, carrots come in many colors including white, yellow, red and maroon. Carrots, like their cousins parsley, cumin, chervil, dill, caraway, coriander, fennel, anise, parsnip and celery were originally grown for their leaves and seeds which were used as flavorings. With cultivation, the roots grew larger, sweeter and less woody and eventually the root became more popular for culinary purposes than the leaves or the seeds. The first orange carrot was introduced in the Netherlands in the 1600s, but it was the French who fell in love with the idea of orange carrots. Some say the French and Dutch fascination with orange carrots was somehow related to the House of Orange. The House of Orange was a princely dynasty that derived its name from the medieval principality of Orange located in old Provence in southern France. The dynasty was important to The Netherlands because it is that nation’s royal family. Whatever the reason, the famous French seedhouse, Vilmorin-Andrieux, dedicated massive resources during the mid-1800s to developing the sweetest orange carrots on the face of the earth. The Nantes carrot, developed at Vilmorin-Andrieux, was named for the town of Nantes in Brittany. Its nearly cylindrical shape, blunt tip, incredible sweetness, lack of a woody core and beautiful orange color have made this one of the most popular carrots of all time.

Note: I like to grow carrots in my garden, and the cool and sunny Alaska summer makes them all especially sweet. I usually grow several kinds, including purple Dragon carrots, Red Cored carrots, and others. But the Nantes is always there, providing a good, dependable orange carrot in the face of all those other colors. They store well, they taste great, they resist disease, and they are the perfect size for eating or cooking. And the great thing about them (and carrots in general), is that they can be grown in pots if you don’t have a garden of your own or if you grow in shallow raised beds and don’t have the depth of soil carrots require.

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