As a teenager raising pigs on our home farm,
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.