1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Carrot

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CARROT. Wild carrot, Daucus carota, a member of the natural order Umbelliferae, grows wild in fields and on roadsides and sea-shores in Britain and the north temperate zone generally of the Old World. It is an annual and resembles the cultivated carrot, except in the root, which is thin and woody. It is the origin of the cultivated carrot, which can be developed from it in a few generations. M. Vilmorin succeeded in producing forms with thick fleshy roots and the biennial habit in four generations. In the cultivated carrot, during the first season of growth, the stem remains short and bears a rosette of graceful, long-stalked, branched leaves with deeply cut divisions and small, narrow ultimate segments. During this period the plant devotes its energies to storing food, chiefly sugar, in the so-called root, which consists of the upper part of the true root and the short portion of the stem between the root and the lowest leaves. A transverse section of the root shows a central core, generally yellow in colour, and an outer red or scarlet rind. The core represents the wood of an ordinary stem and the outer ring the soft outer tissue (bast and cortex). In the second season the terminal bud in the centre of the leaf-rosette grows at the expense of the stored nourishment and lengthens to form a furrowed, rather rough, branched stem, 2 or 3 ft. high, and bearing the flowers in a compound umbel. The umbel is characterized by the fact that the small leaves (bracts) which surround it, resemble the foliage leaves on a much reduced scale, and ultimately curve inwards, the whole inflorescence forming a nest-like structure. The flowers are small, the outer white, the central ones often pink or purplish. The fruit consists of two one-seeded portions, each portion bearing four rows of stiff spinous projections, which cause the fruits when dropped to cling together, and in a natural condition help to spread the seed by clinging to the fur of animals. On account of these projections the seeds cannot be sown evenly without previous rubbing with sand or dry ashes to separate them. As usual in the members of the order Umbelliferae, the wall of the fruit is penetrated lengthwise by canals containing a characteristic oil.

Carrots vary considerably in the length, shape and colour of their roots, and in the proportion of rind to core. The White Belgian, which gives the largest crops, has a very thick root which is white, becoming pale green above, where it projects above ground. For nutritive purposes it is inferior to the red varieties. The carrot delights in a deep sandy soil, which should be well drained and deeply trenched. The ground should be prepared and manured in autumn or winter. For the long-rooted sorts the soil should be at least 3 ft. deep, but the Short Horn varieties may be grown in about 6 in. of good compost laid on the top of a less suitable soil. Peat earth may be usefully employed in lightening the soil. Good carrots of the larger sorts may be grown in unfavourable soils by making large holes 18 in. deep with a crowbar, and filling them up with sandy compost in which the seeds are to be sown. The main crop is sown at the end of March or beginning of April. After sowing, it is only necessary to thin the plants, and keep them clear of weeds. The roots are taken up in autumn and stored during winter in a cool shed or cellar.