Is it worth the effort?
You can work without pesticides and there is nothing like fresh home-grown carrots, not to mention the fascinating varieties which can be found, from yellow, white and purple, to dark orange and nearly red.
Kings Seeds stock a 1000-year old heirloom variety called Purple Dragon which is reddish-purple with an orangeyellow interior. If you have heavy or shallow soils, or for early and late sowings, stumpy smaller-rooted varieties such as Early Chantenay and Paris Market are a good option.
It is likely that in the future we will see varieties with higher carotene values, darker root colouring and pest and disease resistance (as pesticide use becomes more limited), using genetic material from Asian and European carrots. A wild relative of carrot for North Africa, Daucus capillifolius, has already been used to breed a carrot fly-resistant cultivar called Flyaway.
In New Zealand, research on carrots by the Heritage Food Crops Research Trust in Whanganui is only in its early stages. Director Mark Christensen says they are interested in the preorange varieties. “What the original carrots – prior to Dutch breeding – looked like and contained.”
In hindsight, carrots were probably not the best winter supplement for my pigs as they are relatively low in calories and fat. One medium carrot contains only 25 calories and 0.15g of fat, terrific for those on a diet but not so great for hungry porkers.