Growing Carrots Isn’t Just For The Wascaly Any More

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growing carrots

Growing carrots can be a rewarding and life-enriching experience. There’s nothing like tasting the crisp, sweet crunch of a fresh organically grown carrot that you invested time and effort into producing.

Now, here’s some fabulous news:

Growing carrots at home is a lot more straightforward than you would imagine.

Carrots are one of the least difficult veggies to cultivate and maintain, plus they come in all sorts of fun shapes, sizes, and colors.

Benefits Of Growing Carrots

Carrots-smiling

Growing carrots has numerous benefits, the main one being, of course, health.

Carrots are just plain crazy good for you. Like most vegetables, carrots pack a lot of healthy fiber, but also some unique benefits not found in other veggies.

Here’s a quick list of the good stuff jam-packed into carrots:

  • Vitamin A: Carrots are filthy rich in beta-carotene (which your body converts to Vitamin A). This vitamin is excellent for the body’s development, growth, vision, and immune function.
  • Vitamin K1: This vitamin, which sports the cute nickname phylloquinone, is fantastic for blood coagulation and good bone health.
  • Potassium: This essential mineral is vital for improving and maintaining proper blood pressure control.
  • Vitamin B6: This is a group of related vitamins that are deeply involved in helping convert food into life-conquering energy.
  • Carotenoids: These substances have incredible antioxidant superpowers that researchers believe may improve immune system function and reduce the risk of many diseases, such as:

     

Fun Fact:

The earliest carrots in known recorded history were grown in 10th century Persia and Asia Minor, in the region today known as Afganistan.

the giant buddhas of bamiyan - afghanistan

The Giant Buddhas of Bamiyan, Afghanistan

Additional Benefits

Carrots also contain a ridiculous number of powerful plant compounds that super-charge your health, including:

  • Alpha-Carotene: This antioxidant partially converts into vitamin A.
  • Beta-Carotene: Orange carrots have oodles of beta-carotene.
  • Lutein: This is one of the most common antioxidants found in carrots, and it helps improve eye health. You’ll find this sight-saver in yellow and orange carrots.
  • Polyacetylenes: No, it’s not a dinosaur, but rather a recently identified bioactive array of compounds that could help protect your body against leukemia and other cancer cells.
  • Anthocyanins: Wanna try saying that three times fast? You’ll find this antioxidant in dark-colored carrots.

Pro tip:

The first carrots were originally purple or white with a thin root. Then, a mutation occurred which removed the purple pigmentation, resulting in a new race of yellow carrots, from which orange carrots subsequently developed.

Contains Atomic Red, Cosmic Purple, Solar Yellow, Lunar White, and Bambino (orange)

Some Popular Varieties Of Carrots

Carrot Varieties aligned in a circle

When growing carrots, you have a wide variety of options from which to choose.

These carrot varieties divide into about six carrot families:

  • Chantenay
  • Davers
  • Imperator
  • Ball (or Mini)
  • Nantes
  • Hybrids

The dub-steppin’ Danvers carrot family

Carrots

Danvers carrots are flavorful medium-sized carrots that take about 70 days to grow and can measure up to around nine inches long with tapered ends.

Now, this is crazy:

They are also typically orange in color. However, Danvers carrots can even come in a wide variety of different shades such as red, purple, and yellow.

These varieties are also one of the toughest in the carrot family (spending 70 days in the hole can do that), able to tolerate lousy soil better some other carrots.

Moreover, this attribute makes them one of the best carrots for beginners growing carrots.

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Fun fact:

The name Danvers comes from the place where the carrots were initially cultivated, which is the city of Danvers, Massachusetts.

Danvers, Massachusetts

Red Dot is Danvers Massachusetts

The galaxy dominating Imperator carrot family

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Imperator carrots are the most common variety you’ll find in grocery stores. This variety is the type of carrot Bugs Bunny likely chomps on while he’s tormenting Elmer Fudd.

Imperator is similar to Danvers carrots, but are thicker in width and often have a higher sugar content than most other carrots.

The best dirt for these carrots is a light, sandy loam soil and you’ll need at least a foot of space to plant and grow this variety.

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Fun fact:

Carrots can make materials as strong as carbon fiber.

Black Ring made of Carbon Fiber

Carbon Fiber Ring, Image CC Simply Carbon Fiber

The mighty Mini or ballin’ Ball carrot family

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Mini or Ball carrots, also known as radish-style carrots on the streets, can grow in shallow root zones and growers harvest them when they are small.

These varieties are perfect for those interested in growing carrots in a container.

Also, these mighty mini carrots may be tougher than their Danvers cousins, able to grow well in even rocky or heavy soils.

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Fun fact:

In the US a typical carrot travels 1,838 miles to reach your dinner table!

1,838 Mile carrot Migration to dinner plate

The Nantes carrot family

Carrots-Nantes-05741-pk-p1

Nantes carrots are great for those growing carrots at home who want the absolute easiest variety they can grow.

These veggies are sweet and crisp, have blunt tips, and grow up to seven inches in length.

Even better:

Like mini carrots, these carrots also do very well in rocky or heavy soil because they do not twist or fork, unlike other carrot varieties.

Plus, you can also grow these carrots indoors.

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Fun fact:

Carrot juice is used for many other things besides drinking. Master printer and artist Ed Ruscha uses carrot juice instead of printer ink. Vegetable dyes have been traced back more than 5,000 years for use in fabrics.

wool yarn colored with carrot juice dye

Wool yarn dyed with carrots. Image CC The Spruce Crafts, article How to Make Organic Natural Orange Dyes for Fabric

The always classy “Chantenay” carrot family

Chantenay-carrots-img554

Before the creation of Nantes, Chantenay carrots was once considered the best carrot to grow in heavy or rocky soil because of its size.

This variety can measure up to seven inches long, making them very broad and short.

They are also an excellent choice for indoor gardening. Furthermore, Chantenay carrots become sweet as the soil cools in the fall.

However, this variety can turn woody and bitter if harvested too late in the season.

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Fun fact:

A pyramid of carrots using 3 tons of carrots would be approximately four feet square and four feet tall.

Hybrid carrots

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These carrots typically don’t fit any into any other category because they are usually a mix of two or more different carrot families.

Ready for some weird science?

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Check this out:

Hybrid veggies come from two compatible species of plant that receive pollen from each other and produce a hybrid strain with characteristics from both plants.

Popular Carrots

Here are a few favorite carrot seeds from each carrot family. Some of these have the coolest names ever bestowed upon a vegetable.

Danvers

danver-carrots

Imperator

Imperator carrot family

Mini or Ball

ball-carrots

Nantes

nantes-carrots

Chantenay

Chantenay-carrots

Hybrid

carrots smiling

A Quick Note About Seeds

Carrot seeds come in three forms: raw, treated with a fungicide, or coated with a layer of bentonite clay.

The clay covered seeds are often the most expensive because they retain moisture better during germination than seeds without this coating.

These seeds are also called pelletized carrot seeds.

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Fun fact:

In the British Isles, the sea carrot is the only species to grow in the wild.

daucus carota

The Sea Carrot (Daucus carota ssp. gummifer). This one is growing on the Lizard point, Cornwall. Image CC Carrot Museum UK

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How To Get Started Growing Carrots

Before growing carrots, you first need to prepare the right environment. Like anything else in life, preparation makes growing carrots much easier.

First, you want to make sure the soil surface is cleared of rocks, trash, large pieces of bark, and other debris.

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Fun fact:

Carrots flower and produce seeds externally, usually in the form of a seed bud from the flower which forms above ground.

Carrot Flowers

Photography by Caitlyn Galloway of Little City Gardens, via Sunset

Tools you’ll need while growing carrots

Here’s a list of items you’ll need for growing carrots.

  • Carrot seeds (regular or pelleted)
  • Compost (optional)
  • Sand if you don’t have sandy loam soil
  • Rake
  • Organic mulch
  • Deep containers
  • Garden trowel
  • PH soil meter
  • Garden fork
  • Bone meal
  • Topsoil or potting soil
  • Watering can
  • Liquid foliar fertilizer
  • Raised garden bed if you’re not seeding directly into the ground

calendar

When to plant

Carrots grow best in cool climates. Planting in spring, you’ll want to plant seeds two weeks before your last frost date.

You can continue planting every three weeks until mid-summer.

Then you can start replanting for fall and winter around 10 to 12 weeks before your area’s average first fall frost.

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Fun fact:

Except for beets, carrots contain more sugar than any other vegetable.

Here are some stats for 100 grams of carrots.

soil

Image CC By Bits and Splits, via Adobe Stock

About soil

Different carrots can grow better in certain types of soil.

For example, Imperator carrot types need sandy, well-drained loam soil. This type of soil will contain a mix of sand, silt, and a bit of clay.

However, breeds from Nantes, Mini, and Chantenay carrot types can also do well in rocky or heavy soil.

Additionally, before you get started, you want to test your soil to make sure it has the right potential of hydrogen (PH) levels, using your PH soil meter.

As it turns out:

Carrots need slightly acidic soil to grow, so a good PH level is between 5.8 to 6.8.

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Fun fact:

If you dug a hole to the center of the Earth and dropped a carrot in it, it would take a little over 40 minutes to reach the middle.

How To Determine If You Have Loam Soil

To find out if you have loom soil, conduct this simple test:

First, take a ball of dirt from your garden into both hands and make a ball. If the ball falls apart, then the soil is probably sandy.

If it forms a tight ball that doesn’t fall apart when you push it, then it’s likely clay.

Loam soil will hold its shape like clay, but its shape moves through your fingers when crumpled.

However, if your soil is unusable, you can always buy bagged soil. Some bagged soil also comes premixed with sand.

Step 1: Preparing the plant bed

Carrots grow well outside in a raised bed. You can prepare a planting bed by tilling the soil to a depth of at least 12 inches.

Here’s a helpful video on building a raised garden bed.

If you have heavy clay soil, you may want to add some well-aged compost and sand to the bed, then turn it over with a garden fork or heavy rake.

This is very important:

Make sure your soil is free of clumps, rocks, and other obstructions. Next, sprinkle some bone meal across the bed. Bone meal is rich in phosphorus which encourages carrot growth.

After that, water the bed deeply and have it sit for a day or two before sowing your carrot seeds. For the fastest germination and growth, you want to have evenly moist soil.

sow seeds icon

Step 2: Sowing your seeds

When growing carrots, there are two ways you can plant seeds.

The first method is to create rows of deep trenches using the end of your rake or a garden trowel.

You’ll need about 12 to 24 inches of spacing between each row, or whatever distance the directions on the seed packet instructs.

Then, sow a few seeds together about two inches apart and a half inch deep down the row.

You can also use carrot seed tape which is a thin paper tape which already has the seeds evenly spaced.

Seed tape is by far the easiest method of planting seeds, with a lot of the work done for you.

Cover the seeds with about a quarter inch of topsoil or potting soil.

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Fun fact:

Carrot sugar comes from the inspissated juice of the roots, may be used at the table, and it works well for the coughs of consumptive children.

water can icon

Step 3: Watering

A vital step in growing carrots is watering. Once you’ve planted your seeds you’ll need to use a watering can and gently sprinkle water over the newly planted seeds.

Depending on the type of carrots you plant, the seeds should start to germinate or sprout within one to three weeks.

This factor makes all the difference:

Watering is crucial during this germination phase. Keep in mind that dry seeds don’t grow.

Water your seedbed every one to three days to yield the best results. Also, you want to make sure that the soil remains moist, but not over-saturated or soggy.

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Fun fact:

From one pound of carrots, we can obtain one ounce and 11 grains of sugar.

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Step 4: Thin your rows

After your seeds sprout, it’s time to thin the rows. Thinning involves removing some of your smaller carrot seedlings, so the stronger seedlings have the room and nutrients to grow bigger.

You can thin carrot seedlings about one to four inches apart or following the instructions on the seed packet for the best results.

By the way:

Be sure not to throw out the carrots you pull. You can use the smaller carrots for salads, roasting, or other delicious recipes.

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Fun fact:

Several groups of people create and play musical instruments made out of carrots.

Of course, you can skip thinning altogether if you’re using seed tape. That’s because the seeds are already perfectly placed for maximum growth.

Then, apply a thin layer of organic mulch to help the soil stay moist and fight off weeds. Also, if you see any weeds, gently pull them out without disturbing your seeds.

Here’s a great video on how to thin your carrots.

Fertilize icon

Step 5: Water and fertilize your carrots

After you’ve thinned your seedlings, or if you’re using seed tape and didn’t need to thin, the next step is to water and fertilize.

Continue using your watering can to keep the soil moist. Carrots that don’t get enough water will develop a bitter taste.

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Fun fact:

Ford Motor Company founder Henry Ford was anti-milk and anti-meat but was devoted to the carrot, which he claimed held the secret to longevity.

Also, if the moisture levels are not consistent, carrots will most likely crack.

To prevent this, using the diluted organic foliar application every three to four weeks will do wonders for your harvest.

Here’s a helpful video on using organic liquid fertilizer.

harvest icon

Step 6: Harvest and storage

Carrots can take anywhere from about 60 to 100 days to mature. Consult the back of your seed packet for the exact number of days and set your calendar.

Meanwhile: You can also pick some test carrots around this time to see if they taste ready.

Once your crop’s ready to harvest, grab the top of the carrot and give it a half-twist and pull. Be sure to cut off the green tops immediately to prevent the loss of moisture.

Rinse thoroughly and store in your refrigerator or a cool, dark area. Here’s a great tip on keeping your carrots fresher, longer.

carrots smiling

Pests To Beware Of When Growing Carrots

carrots

Unfortunately, when growing carrots, you can’t just expect your delicious crop to grow unchallenged by nefarious forces of nature waiting to feed on your hard work.

As it turns out:

Carrots face a host of biological threats, most of which are much smaller than you can imagine.

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Fun fact:

Carrots are like candy for rabbits because of their high sugar content.

bugs bunny with big carrot

Wascally wabbits!

When we think of carrot gardens, it’s almost impossible not to think of rabbits. Thanks to Bugs Bunny, rabbits and carrots are practically synonymous.

Let’s be honest, keeping your garden safe from these cute bushy-tailed invaders isn’t going to be a walk in the park.

These furry little garden marauders can be as cunning as raccoons, plus they can jump over and dig under barriers.

Here are a few strategies for foiling these fluffy garden serial killers.

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Fun fact:

The only place rabbits sweat is through the bottom pads on their feet.

Netting and Fencing

backyard carrot plant farms

Netting and fencing. No, it’s not a new Olympic sport (although I wish). When growing carrots, you can use chicken wire that has one inch or smaller mesh then place it directly over your seedlings.

This mesh won’t inhibit their growth since they are growing underground, but it will make it impossible for the rabbits to get your carrots.

But, make sure you anchor the mesh down with a rock or something heavy.

You can also install fencing around your garden. However, it needs to be at least two feet high to prevent most rabbits from jumping over.

To keep them from burrowing under, you can bury the fence at least three to six inches (the deeper, the better) and bend the buried portion away from your plants.

You’ll need to check the fencing frequently to make sure your little friends haven’t created a new opening.

This gardener made a cool video with some interesting ideas on how to re-enforce fencing with chicken wire to keep out rabbits and all kinds of other creatures.

Repellents

Rabbit repellents are another line of defense when growing carrots. They work by either releasing a repulsive odor or making your plants taste bad to rabbits.

The taste-based repellents are typically more effective. However, they can backfire and make your carrots inedible.

What’s more:

Another downside is that you might have to reapply the repellent every time it rains.

Here’s a video with some more advice on keeping rabbits out of your garden.

Meet The Smaller More Common Carrot Killing Criminals

While rabbits grab most of the headlines when it comes to perceived threats to carrots, the more common culprits are much smaller.

Insects pose a more significant threat to your crop, and there are a number of these threats just waiting in the dirt for a chance to eat up all of your hard work.

Here is a list of a few more common pests with links to resources for controlling them.

We should also note that if you line your raised garden with items like newspaper, wire mesh, and plastic sheet, you’ll significantly reduce the odds of suffering from at least some of these pests while growing carrots.

In the long run, when it comes growing carrots and other veggies, controlling disease and insect infestation in your garden requires a good defense which is also the best offense.

Here’s a video talking about the use of mesh netting to protect your crops.

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Delicious Carrot Recipes

via GIPHY

Congratulations! You’ve done all the hard work growing carrots and now it’s time to put some of those delightful veggies to work delighting your taste buds.

Here are a few savory carrot recipes that will make your months of growing carrots well worth the effort.

Be sure and try out your multi-color carrots for a colorfully delicious twist on these recipes.

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Fun fact:

Whenever rabbits are happy (which is probably after chowing down on your carrots) they will jump and twist in the air. This is called a binky.

Glazed carrots

Enjoy the buttery sweet goodness of tender carrots glazed and sauteed to delicious perfection. This dish is perfect for kids and adults who don’t like eating their veggies.

glazed-carrots

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds of carrots, peeled and sliced into sticks
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. of salt
  • 1/8 tsp. ground white pepper

Directions

  1. Place your fresh homegrown carrots in a large saucepan
  2. Next, pour in about an inch of water and bring to a boil
  3. Reduce to low heat, cover and simmer carrots until tender (8 to 10 minutes)
  4. Drain and transfer carrots to a bowl
  5. Melt your butter in the same saucepan
  6. Stir in brown sugar, salt, and white pepper until brown sugar and salt dissolve
  7. Transfer carrots into brown sugar sauce
  8. Cook and stir until carrots are glazed with sauce (about 5 minutes)

Carrot fritters

Are you ready to take your homegrown organic carrots to a new dimension of yum? These carrot fritters will make your mouth dance with joy.

Healthy-Carrot-Fritters-mg990

Ingredients

  • 1 small onion, cut into one-quarter-inch slices
  • 4 carrots, julienned
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 quarts of oil for deep frying

Directions

  1. Combine carrots, onion, green onions, flour, salt, eggs, and pepper in a medium-sized bowl, then mix well to coat
  2. Heat oil in deep fryer to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
  3. Using tongs, pick up your veggies and drop them into the hot oil
  4. Fry for about three minutes on one side and two minutes on the other
  5. Serve with a garnish of chopped green onions

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Fun fact:

Carrots were first grown as medicine, not food.

Carrot chips

Give those sodium infested, calorie bloated, processed potato chips the snacking pink slip and enjoy the sweet, crunchy goodness of homegrown carrot chips.

“This is a healthy alternative to potato chips and taste salty and sweet like sweet potato fries. This recipe is inspired by other recipes on the internet that I have played with. The thinner the slices, the crunchier the chips.” ~Yesnomaybeso7

carrot-chips

Ingredients

  • 4 carrots (washed)
  • 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Place one rack on the highest level and another on the bottom
  3. Peel carrots into thin strips using a veggie peeler
  4. Put into a large bowl, then drizzle olive oil over carrot strips and toss to coat
  5. Season with salt and toss again
  6. Next, spread your carrots onto two baking sheets with a single layer to prevent overlap
  7. Put one baking sheet on the top rack and the other on the bottom
  8. Bake carrots in preheated oven for six minutes
  9. Switch racks and continue baking until carrots are nice and crisp (usually takes about six more minutes)
  10. Cool your chips
  11. Attack mouth with chips

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Fun fact:

It would take 7,920 eight-inch carrots to make a mile of carrots. It means you would require 103,348,080 carrots to reach end to end of the Great Wall of China which is 13,049 miles long.

Autumn rainbow sheet pan dinner

Prepare this quick and easy healthy chicken dish using your homegrown carrots, and earn some well-deserved “woot woots” at the dinner table.

autmn-rainbow-pan-img54

Ingredients

  • 1 (12 ounces) bottle of garlic rosemary citrus marinade
  • 3 chicken breasts, halved
  • 1/2 pound butternut squash, peeled and chopped
  • 1 gala apple, peeled, cored, and cut into half-inch cubes
  • 1/2 pound baby carrots (or sliced carrots)
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 pound fresh brussel sprouts halved
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Place chicken breast halves in a gallon-size resealable plastic bag, add marinade, and refrigerate for one hour
  2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit
  3. Line a sheet pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil
  4. Place butternut squash, carrots, brussel sprouts, and apple on the sheet pan
  5. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper
  6. Place marinated chicken breasts on top of delectable veggie-fruit mixture and drizzle with leftover marinade from the bag
  7. Bake in preheated oven until chicken is no longer pink and the juices run clear (between 25 and 30 minutes)
  8. For chicken, your instant-read thermometer should read no less than 165 degrees Fahrenheit
  9. Place pan into broiler and broil until the vegetables are lightly browned (two to three minutes)
  10. Remove from the oven
  11. Salivate and serve

Sheet pan smoked sausage, apple, and root veggie dinner

For sausage lovers, sheet pan smoked sausage featuring your freshly harvested carrots and other veggies is a sure-fire hit at the dinner table.

sheet-pan-sausage-img5454

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces baby carrots (you can also substitute with carrots halved lengthwise and sliced to one inch)
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and cut into eight wedges
  • 8 ounces Brussels sprouts halved lengthwise
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 pound (12 ounces) package rope smoked sausage, cut in half-inch bias-cut slices
  • Medium honeycrisp apple, cut into 12 wedges
  • 1 lemon halved
  • 2 tbsp. chopped parsley

Directions

  1. Place large baking pan in the oven, preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Toss carrots, brussel sprouts, and onion with oil, rosemary, salt, and pepper in a large bowl
  3. Arrange vegetable mixture and sausage on the preheated pan in a single layer
  4. Bake in preheated oven until tender (about 20 minutes)
  5. Preheat broiler to high
  6. Add apple to pan
  7. Broil until the apple is tender and veggies are slightly caramelized (five to six minutes)
  8. Remove pan from oven
  9. Squeeze lemon over the pan and sprinkle with parsley
  10. Take a bow

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Fun fact:

Carrot liqueur went on sale for the first time in 2015. The liquid, distilled from carrots grown in France, is sold by Dutch distiller Wenneker.

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Growing Carrots and Loving the Taste of Nature

While carrots are delicious and should be a staple food in every diet, there’s also something more to growing carrots.

It’s the feeling of pride you feel after you’ve built your raised garden, tilled the dirt, sowed the seeds, protected, watered, fertilized, and after months of work finally harvest your first crop.

If you’re unfamiliar with gardening, don’t let the work intimidate you.

via GIPHY

Once you’ve pulled your first harvest from the ground, you can beam with pride as you serve and enjoy some delicious meals with family and friends.

Start growing carrots today and become a carrot rock star!