My sister in Louisiana called a couple of weeks or so ago, laughing about her carrots. She had planted the seeds back in September when she was supposed to. Then, she had pulled a couple up in early December, and at the time the roots were still spindly and pale. After Christmas, she still couldn’t see anything but green above-ground, but she pulled another one up, just to check.
It had definitely grown; in cross section, it was shaped just about like a wedge of pie. The carrot was three inches at its widest diameter and only seven inches in length. The shape is what made her laugh, but, as a bonus, the carrot was sweet, with good carrot flavor. The leaves smelled carrot-y, too, making the plant a complete carrot experience.
The other carrots she has harvested from her garden since then have all been similar.
When choosing the seeds, she bought whatever was available in bulk at a local store. The stores that carry bulk seed, for gardeners to measure out themselves, (usually a “feed & seed” store) typically carry seeds that will work well in their area, making it hard for a beginner to choose poorly.
The variety my sister’s store happened to have was Danvers, which, according to Wikipedia
“has a conical shape, having well-defined shoulders and tapering to a point at the tip. They are somewhat shorter than Imperator cultivars, but more tolerant of heavy soil. Danvers cultivars are often puréed as baby food. They were developed in 1871 in Danvers, Ma.”
My sister’s yard definitely has heavy soil, but she built some raised beds to keep her plants up out of the worst of it.
She has been pulling the carrots “as needed” for meals, and they have all been tasty and not tough (the way root vegetables can get as they age).
She will plant them further apart next year, maybe six inches apart; she planted these about 4 inches apart which, for most carrots, would have been a fine spacing, but these carrots needed more room.
The carrots I grew in 2009, Little Finger and Jaune du Doubs, both did very well in spring, but fizzled in the fall, so I have ordered different fall carrots for 2010. If I were very smart, I would just buy a packet of Danvers, since they did so well for my sister, but I do not always do the smart thing.
Instead, I have ordered a packet of Oxheart, which should be shaped a lot like my sister’s carrots and are advertised as doing well in the fall garden, and a packet of Nantes, which I have grown before with good success.
One potential problem with the Nantes variety is that some strains do better in spring and some in fall. I am not sure which category my packet belongs in, so they will be a bit of a gamble. However, I would likely lose more money gambling with actual cash in Vegas than in my yard with a packet of carrot seeds.