As a teenager rais­ing pigs on our home farm,

NZ Lifestyle Block - - PLANTS WITH A PURPOSE - Source: Mitch, 1998

I was told car­rots would make a good crop to feed my hun­gry pork­ers over win­ter. I knew they loved them be­cause when they es­caped – which was of­ten – they headed straight for the car­rot row in the vegetable gar­den.

So be­gan my car­rot jour­ney. Dad al­lot­ted me a de­cent block of pas­ture. Over a pe­riod of weeks, we sprayed it, ploughed it and tilled it into a fine tilth. An old Planet Ju­nior seeder was ex­tracted and I set out to sow.

For hours I walked the seeder up and down the long rows, try­ing to imag­ine these tiny seeds find­ing their way through the soil. Daily I peered at the ground, will­ing them to come up, but all I saw was weeds.

Three long weeks later, the first tiny, strap-like car­rot seed leaves emerged. They were not ready for the hos­tile weed takeover which quickly lead to the next job… a quar­ter acre of tiny vul­ner­a­ble seedlings had to be weeded and thinned. BY HAND!

My long-suf­fer­ing fam­ily was roped into this back-break­ing, te­dious job. Ex­tra push hoes were sharp­ened up and var­i­ous bribes ad­min­is­tered. The sun, so de­light­ful when ly­ing on our backs in the swim­ming pool, turned into a fire de­mon, cook­ing our sweat-soaked arms and legs. I learnt more about grow­ing car­rots than I ever wanted to.

The fol­low­ing win­ter we switched to fod­der beet for eas­ier cul­ti­va­tion and I didn’t grow car­rots in my gar­den again for nearly 50 years.

Apart from one of my univer­sity friends turn­ing yel­low from drink­ing too much car­rot juice, my next car­rot en­counter was nearly 35 years later when I learnt that juiced car­rots were a po­tent brew in fight­ing can­cer. I went on an epic jour­ney, juic­ing buck­et­fuls of car­rots, beet­root, ap­ples, gar­lic and pars­ley through my can­cer re­cov­ery and the chronic fa­tigue which fol­lowed. I don’t know to what de­gree the car­rots as­sisted in heal­ing, along with ev­ery­thing else I did. But I grew to love the juice and felt en­er­gised when drink­ing it. To­day, can­cer-free, I still juice for an energy boost.

Where car­rots re­ally shine is in their beta-carotene, which is what gives them their or­ange colour­ing. Beta-carotene is con­verted in the body to vi­ta­min A, which is es­sen­tial for cog­ni­tive func­tion, eye and skin health and has been im­pli­cated as a can­cer pro­tec­tant and im­mune en­hancer. A half cup serv­ing of car­rots pro­vides over dou­ble the daily adult Vi­ta­min A re­quire­ment. The seeds and roots of wild car­rot, a com­mon weed known as Queen Anne’s lace or bird­snest weed, was used by the an­cients medic­i­nally. In 512 AD, Dioscorides wrote: Queen Anne’s Lace

( Dau­cus carota).

The root of wild car­rot is slen­der and spin­dle-shaped, whitish and hard, with an acrid taste. Wild car­rot seeds found in camp­sites in south­ern Ger­many and Switzer­land, dated as early as 2500 BC, are thought to have been used for medicine and flavour­ing.

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