Carroticide: A necessary chore

I hated to do it, but it had to be done—thinning out my Chantenay carrot seedlings. I planted the seeds on April 7, and now the seedlings are about six inches tall. I usually sow the small seeds too thickly so seedlings soon begin to crowd each other. Crowded root veggies are even unhappier than crowded airline passengers.

Solution:thinning the young carrots so they are about two inches apart. No, I don’t use a ruler. I eyeball the seedlings and make choices, looking at their vigor and their locations in the row.

I thinned the seedlings yesterday (May 27) for several reasons: (1) the seedlings are growing rapidly and obviously need thinning and (2) the soil was soft after a shower a few days ago. I did a “test pulling,” and the carrot slipped cleanly from the ground without disturbing its close neighbors.

So I pulled at least half of the seedlings. Most already had begun developing light-orange tap roots that were about an inch and a half long and 1/8-inch in diameter.

Did I taste one? Well, I’ll confess. I wiped the soil remnants from one of the bigger roots and bit and chewed. It tasted sort of like the strong smell of the leaves, not the sweet flavor we expect, so I just tossed the other discards into my cleanup basket.

Since the carrots are growing rapidly now, I’ll have to keep an eye on them. By late June they should be large enough to pull for fresh or cooked treats for lunch or dinner.

And in late July I plan to start a second crop. Aficionados say that carrots maturing late in the season, perhaps even kissed by a light frost, are the sweetest of all.

And after thinning the carrots, I turned to the short rows of Ruby Red Swiss chard and Cylindra beets, which germinated poorly. I sowed to fill out the rows and thinned the chard in a place or two. The chard seedlings, however, didn’t go into my cleanup basket. They became “first picking” additions to our noontime salad.

Everything needing thinning in our veggie garden got thinned yesterday—well, everything except me. And if I add more veggies to my diet, I’ll probably get some needed thinning too.

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