I've read that if you plant carrots late enough in the summer, they can stay in the ground during the winter. I think it's possible to harvest them as you need them, and they might even taste better if the ground gets real cold before you dig them up. I've never tried it before. Not on purpose anyway. But look what I found - carrots! Ugly carrots.
I planted a short row of carrot seeds last spring, as early as possible, and only pulled a few of them up when they were very small, mostly to thin them. I used the leaves all spring, summer, and fall in smoothies and juices, and the more leaves I pulled off the more leaves the carrots would grow. Of course, carrot leaves are so bitter I could only use a few at a time, but still, I was so pleased with having the green leaves I never pulled up the carrots. By winter, I assumed they were so old they probably would be tough and bitter, so I was
lazy not very motivated to dig them up, and then we had some extreme cold and I assumed they were dead. But, just a few days ago, I was out prowling the garden and mentally working on this year's garden design, when I noticed that Mrs. Hall was excavating a carrot.
I pulled it, easily, from the too wet soil, and what do you know? A real live carrot! When I brushed some of the mud away, I thought it looked quite promising, so I took it inside to give it a good scrub.
While I was cleaning the carrot, I remembered the scene in Gone with the Wind when Scarlet, practically starving, finds the old carrot in the garden and gags when she tries to scarf it. I decided to take a first bite of my carrot while outside, so I could re-enact the scene for the chickens if I felt compelled to do so.
It tastes like... a carrot. Surprise!
The carrot wasn't as tender, and had a more pungent carrot-ness toward the stem, which wasn't bad really, but did encourage me to be generous with Mrs. Hall and offer her a pretty big bite. Mrs. Hall was satisfied after only three little pecks, but then she's never been a great fan of carrots anyway, as evidenced by all the carrot pulp in my compost that goes uneaten.
After the first carrot exceeded my expectations, I was excited to think the entire row might be just sitting there, ready for me to eat. Jamie came out to the garden then, to see what we could dig up. At least half of the carrots were dead and mushy, but still orange. I grabbed several to give them a yank and came away with a hand full of carrot mush. It was gross, but we persevered, and came away with a bowl full of sound ones. They were solid, and tasted like carrots, but they weren't that pretty tapered shape of the classic carrot. Some of them, like the one in the photo, were shaped in ways that made me hesitant to add them to my stew, even though we had lots of laughs at their expense.