Seed Saving - Carrots
Carrots are one of the most popular vegetables out there. Whether eaten with ranch, in a stew, or even as a dessert, you'll find many eager hands reaching for the ubiquitous orange favorite. But, have you ever wanted to try growing your own? It's really, super easy. All you need is a little patience. Dave put together a great video on saving carrot seeds. Let's go through it step by step.
Step One: Choose Your Carrots
Carrots date back to almost 10,000 years ago to parts of Europe and Asia. In that time, there have been hundreds of varieties created. Different colors and flavors are available, you just have to make the choice of what you want growing in your home garden. You can't go wrong with the Sugarsnax variety, which was rated best in flavor, texture, and germination by Minnesota Master Gardeners. However, you just can't make a bad choice. Carrots are hearty and can withstand lots of growing pains. Go with your gut.
Step Two: Store Your Carrots
Carrots are biennial. They take until the second growing season to produce seeds. This means waiting until the first fall to harvest. Once you've harvested, you need to pick out the best looking carrots from the bunch. Dave recommends around 5-10. That way you'll have a good variety and lots of opportunities for pollination.
Take these 5-10 magic carrots and cut the tops off them, diagonally. You won't be needing them, yet. You'll store the root portion in a cool, damp, place, ideally somewhere between 33-35 degrees F, just above freezing. A high humidity is sought, too, about 85%-100%. You can also use a layering technique with sand/carrot/sand/carrot to help keep them fresh all winter long. You'll also want to not wash them, as keeping a layer of soil acts as a barrier against the elements, and helps preserve them in storage.
Step Three: Replant Your Carrots
Once the worst of the winter is over, you can start thinking about replanting your stored beauties. The roots should be planted so the head, and the green top, is just above the soil line. Give them plenty of love and time and your seed carrots will grow over the summer, producing a large plume of green stalks with something called an umbel at the top. This is where the seeds will be growing.
Step Four: Harvest the Seeds
Now, after two long growing seasons, are your carrot seeds ready to be harvested. Take the stalks and umbel, which should have turned from green during the summer to tan/brown in the fall, and cut them and store them for about a week in a place where they can properly dry out.
Carrot seeds can be easily harvested by rubbing the umbel between your hands. They are kind of tiny, so be sure to separate them from the chaff with care.
Step Five: Store Your Seeds
Carrot seeds can last and remain viable for up to 6 years after collection. All you need to do is store them in a cool, dry place. Airtight containers are recommended, but you can simply use an envelope, as well.
Let us know if you've tried saving your own seeds. We would love to see your methods! If you're looking to get started, the Pine River Public Library has a seed saving library open during the beginning of spring so you can get started with help, even.