The Heritage Seed Library UK - Carrots

Heritage Seed Library Database 2016

Please Note: The following information, historical listings and images have been kindly supplied by The Heritage Seed Library, UK. This is much appreciated and acknowledged. Please do not not reproduce this information without proper referencing. Photos (below) also compliments of Heritage Seed Library at Garden Organic.  Garden Organic is the working name of the Henry Doubleday Research Association, based in Coventry UK - Current listing for carrots

Garden Organic's Heritage Seed Library (HSL) aims to conserve vegetable varieties that are not widely available. It is not a gene bank and all of the collection, once there is enough seed, will become available for members to grow and enjoy. The collection consists of mainly European varieties, including:

Rare landrace varieties, which are adapted to specific growing conditions.

Heirloom varieties that have been saved over many generations. These are unique to the Heritage Seed Library catalogue.

Varieties that have been dropped from popular seed catalogues over the past decade. This occurs for a number of reasons; their lack of popularity with customers, their unsuitability for commercial scale production or simply the prohibitive cost of trialling and National Listing. Visit the heritage Seed Library here.

Carrot Afghan Purple

Catalogue Entry Egyptian cave paintings dating back to around 2000BC show what is thought to be purple carrots, the orange varieties we are familiar with today were not developed until the 16th century. Donated by P Carry of the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange this purple carrot produces 20-25cm roots that do have some tendency to fork. When sliced the purple carrots reveal a bright yellow core, which is maintained when cooked, and have a more pronounced 'carroty' flavour than orange varieties. Shows some resistance to root fly attack. (Carrot Museum Editor's note - there is no evidence that the ancient Egyptians ever cultivated carrots, of any colour)

See also: Seed Savers Exchange. Garden seed inventory, 5th ed., p.159. 65 days. Bicoloured roots have yellow core surrounded by purple, 9” long, pleasant wild carrot flavour, texture is similar to celeriac or turnip root, not as sweet or as crunchy as garden carrots.

The carrot is to return to its roots and will go on sale this summer in its original colour – purple. Generations of people in the West have grown up believing that carrots are always orange. But as long ago as 2000BC temple drawings from Egypt show a plant believed to be a purple carrot. It is also identified in the garden of the Egyptian King Merodach-Baladan in 8th century BC. In Roman times carrots were purple or white. By the 10th century purple carrots were grown in Afghanistan, Pakistan and northern Iran. Purple, white and yellow carrots were imported to southern Europe in the 14th century. Black, red and green carrots were also grown but carrots have been orange in the West since Dutch growers decided in the 16th century that the patriotic colour was preferable. Experts believe Dutch breeders used a yellow mutant seed from North Africa to develop the orange variety and then stuck to it through breeding. Their colour comes from beta-carotene with some alpha carotene, a pigment the body converts to vitamin A, which is essential for healthy skin and vision in dim light. Dutch breeders recently studied the health qualities of purple carrots and believe they give us extra protection against various forms of cancer and heart disease. They contain purple pigments called anthocyanins, and acts anti-oxidants that protect the body. Supermarket buyers were keen to try out purple carrots.

After pink tomatoes and green tomato ketchup they believe British consumers are keen to experiment. Carrots are the second most popular vegetable after the potato. The first commercial crop is now growing near Ely, Cambridgeshire, and dark purple carrots with orange insides will be sold in Sainsbury’s stores in July. They will brighten up the nation’s dinner plates served as a violet puree, with its classic partner, the green pea, or in a salad. Mark Spurdens, technical manager for Isleham Fresh Produce, said yesterday: “We have had tastings and besides being healthy we think they are sweeter. They also look stunning sliced raw. We are already planning to sell rainbow bunches of carrots next year.” 16 May 2002.,,2-297918,00.html

Carrot Beta III Catalogue Entry (no image available) A variety bred in the US for its high carotene content, which is three times the norm, hence the name. The dark orange-red roots are described perfectly by Seed Guardian J C Jones, who says, “A medium-sized taper-rooted carrot with no hard core, particularly delicious when eaten young and small. Also good for freezing.”

References See also: Seed Savers Exchange. Garden seed inventory, 5th ed., p.161. High carotene content, exceptional taste

Carrot Egmont Gold Catalogue Entry Originally from Yates of Australia this tapering, pale orange, maincrop variety is good for late sowing. It was brought back from New Zealand by Rob Hole, gardener at the Bishop’s Palace, Wells, in 1998. Described in 1967 in the Pedigree Seeds Catalogue as "without doubt the most tender and fully flavoured main crop carrot offered”. References None

Carrot Giant Improved Flak Catalogue Entry A large, long, pale orange carrot with a tapered shape and rounded shoulders showing no signs of greenback. Does not have a strong carroty flavour when either raw or cooked, but are crunchy and crisp. Seed Guardian Jane Love suggests that they would be ideal for making coleslaw. References None

Carrot John's Purple Catalogue Entry John Purves, Oxford, originally collected this carrot in the mid-1970s and over many years managed to obtain a pure line of purple carrots from four he found amongst a bag given to him by a neighbour for his rabbits. He passed on some of his seeds to Horticulture Research International, now part of Warwick University, for their long-term preservation. With John's consent, some were released to us. John says, "Tastes like an orange carrot - crisp and flavoursome".

References See also William Woys Weaver’s Heirloom Vegetable Gardening, page 125 Article on Violet or Purple Carrot - history, description, flavour, cultivation (likes wet, heavy soil), bolts easily but beautiful flowers, recipe.

Carrot London Market Catalogue Entry Originally from Finland, this traditional early ‘short horn’ type carrot has very wide, stumpy roots which are deep orange-red in colour. Guardian Anne St John notes that they are good boiled or steamed, or freshly grated in salads and have a mild flavour. They freeze (un-blanched) and store well.

References See: Arche Noah Sortenhandbuch 2002, p.44 (German text)

Egmont Gold John's Purple London Market
Egmont Gold Heritage Seed Library UK Carrot London Market Heritage Seed Library UK

Carrot Manchester Table Catalogue Entry This variety is still commercially available in both Australia and New Zealand, which is where our donor picked up his seeds. Productive and vigorous, it produces crunchy, deep orange, cylindrical roots up to 20cm long, with a lovely sweet flavour. Commercial catalogues describe it as 'outstanding', what do you think?

References Listed in PVSG Feb 1972 EEC Special Edition

Carrot Red Elephant Catalogue Entry Donated by Warwick Horticulture Research International, now part of Warwick University. A fast growing, large and tasty 19th Century Australian heirloom deep orange-red carrot. It has no hard core and can be eaten at any stage from baby to full maturity. Described in Carters Blue Book of Gardening in 1934 as "A veritable giant, both in length and bulk, specimens have been exhibited measuring 30 inches long; prominent in the garden and the exhibition table." Heritage Seed Library member Gareth Close adds, "The best carrot ever! Superb flavour and trouble-free to grow."

References 19th Century Australian heirloom, discontinued as commercial variety in Australia in 1910 The largest garden carrot. A veritable giant, both in length and bulk; specimens have been exhibited measuring 30” long; prominent in the garden and on the exhibition table, 141 First Prizes reported by customers in one season. [Letter from a customer is then quoted]. Carter’s Blue book of gardening: catalogue 1934, p.278 See also: Seed Savers Exchange. Garden seed inventory, 5th ed., p.171.

Red-orange skin, very large, flavourful Grow out 2001 – Long tapered roots, dense bushy foliage, excellent internal quality, deep orange core, almost darker than or indistinguishable from outer flesh. Sue Stickland This carrot does not have a hard core. It cooks well and retains its colour. It can be eaten at any stage between baby size and full maturity. I first grew this carrot 40 years ago, obtaining the seed from Carter’s. I regularly produced carrots of 12 to 16 oz. and tender throughout. J. C. Churchill, BA3 6SX I found these carrots best when eaten young, but those stored for seed stored very well. When removed for replanting, they were still firm. If I had had enough stored for eating, they would have still been as good as the fresh ones. Not a dark carrot in colour, not a lot of core, good flavour and worth growing. P. Howlett, RH11 9AW Listed in Carter’s Seeds for 1931/4/5.

Carrot Scarlet Horn Catalogue Entry This carrot originated in the historical town of Hoorn in Northern Holland around 1610. A good all round choice for early cropping, a short stump rooted variety with deep red skin and flesh. Skin is finely grained, the texture crisp and is well flavoured.

References 'Early French Scarlet Horn' and 'Early Scarlet Horn' listed in John Forbes Catalogue of Vegetable & Flower Seeds 1892, 1896 'Early Scarlet Horn' referred to in JC Loudon's The Horticulturist, London 1849 Root 6 inches in length, 2½ inches in diameter, nearly cylindrical and tapering abruptly to a very slender taproot. Skin orange-red but green or brown where it comes to the surface of the ground. Flesh deep orange yellow, fine grained and of superior flavour and delicacy. The crown of the root is hollow and the foliage short and small. As a table carrot, much esteemed, both on account of the smallness of its heart and the tenderness of its fibre. Fearing Burr: Field and garden vegetables of America. 1865 Early Scarlet Horn – Good all round choice for early cropping. Medium size, medium tapered roots. D. T. Brown’s web site Early Scarlet Horn – Early Horn, or Early Scarlet Dutch Horn, Carotte Rouge Courte Hative. By 1610. From the Dutch town of Hoorn. “A stump rooted variety of very fine quality, bunches well and recommended for growing under cloches”. Thomas Etty Esq. web site English Early Scarlet Horn = pointed root. Dutch Early Scarlet Horn = stump root. Many different types of Early Scarlet Horn. Seeds of Diversity web site. Early Horn. Very old variety first introduced before 1610 in the Netherlands. Now quite rare. A short rooted variety noted as having deep red skin and flesh, fine grained, crisp and well flavoured. Coloured illustration half natural size of Earliest Scarlet French Horn (shaped like a small ball with a short tail, red in colour. Album Benary: alte Gemusesorten, 1876 [Facsimile, text in German], tab.IV, carrots, no.13 “Early Scarlet Horn” in Carter’s Seeds (1931/4/5); Bourne’s Seeds (1932); Legg’s Seeds (1931/4?); L.R. Russell Seeds (1937) “very sweet, good colour coming into use after the “French Horn” sorts”. There are frequent references to carrots as “Scarlet” or “Horn”, though not specifically (“Early”)/ “Scarlet Horn”. It may be that the names have changed, though the carrot variety may be the same.

Manchester Table Red Elephant Scarlet Horn
Manchester Table Heritage Seed Library UK Red Elephant Heritage Seed Library UK Scarelt Horn Heritage Seed Library UK

Carrot White Belgium Catalogue Entry Renowned as the best cultivated white carrot, originally introduced in the 1800s for stock feed but is delicious enough for table use. Reported by Alan and Jackie Gear to have a "well developed flavour that is mild and crisp, equal to any orange carrot". Produces pure white roots with green shoulders that show above ground. High yielding and carrot fly resistant. Good for those who cannot tolerate carotene. Mentioned by Vilmorin (1885) and listed in Sutton's catalogue of 1852. White Belgian Carrot Heritage Seed Library UK

References White Belgian' listed in PVSG Feb 1972 EEC Special Edition White Belgium 1600s Although there is little or nothing by way of documentary evidence, the mild tasting White Belgium or Belgian White (known in France as Blanche) may well have come from Flanders, and has many similarities to an old variety known in 17th century Britain as Long White. White carrots were grown long before orange carrots burst on to the scene, and of the few white carrots that survive in cultivation, White Belgium is reckoned to have the best flavour. A good cropper, even on lower quality soils (though it abhors frost), it makes a novel addition to salad, soups or stews, and would be worth experimenting with for an albino version of a carrot cake. In France it is most esteemed as horse fodder! Christopher Stocks 2008 Forgotten Fruits A Guide to Britain's Traditional Fruit & Vegetables.

White Belgium, Green-Top White. Root very long, fusiform, frequently measuring 18-20” in length, and 4”-5” in diameter. In the genuine variety, the crown rises 5”-6” from the surface of the ground, and, the exception of a slight contraction towards the top, the full diameter is retained for nearly ½ the entire length. Skin green above, white below ground. Flesh white, tending to citron yellow at the centre or heart of the root; somewhat coarse in texture. Foliage rather large and vigorous. Remarkable for its productiveness, surpassing in this respect all other varieties, and exceeding that of the Long Orange by nearly ¼. It can be harvested with great facility, and gives a good return even on poor soils. The variety is not considered of any value as a table esculent, and is grown almost exclusively for feeding stock; for which purpose it is, however, esteemed less valuable than the yellow fleshed sorts, because less nutritious and more liable to decay during winter. Since its introduction it has somewhat deteriorated; and as now grown differs to some extent from the description given above. The roots are smaller, seldom rise more than 2”-3” above the soil, and taper directly from the crown to the point. A judicious selection of roots for seed, continued for a few seasons, would undoubtedly restore the variety to its primitive form and dimensions. Fearing Burr: Field and garden vegetables of America, 1865, p.28 Root sunk in the ground for 2/3rds or ¾ of its length, green or bronze purple on the part over ground; flesh of the root white, with a marked tendency towards a more or less decided yellow tinge. It yields a heavy crop, and in this respect rivals the beetroot. This variety appears to have sprung from the old Long White Carrot, but has now almost entirely gone out of cultivation.

Numerous attempts have been made to render it more hardy, so as to have the crop come in at the latter end of autumn without running the risk of having it injured by frost. These attempts have not been successful. The leaves of the plant will bear 4 or 5 degrees of frost, but this is sufficient to produce a change in the tissue of the roots, even in the over ground part, which has been inured to variations of temperature. The underground portion of the root is very sensitive to cold, and becomes disorganized by the slightest frost. It is therefore necessary, when these carrots happen to be pulled in frosty weather, to protect them at once, by covering them with straw or earth, or with their own leaves cut and heaped over them. Illustration, 1/5th natural size. Vilmorin-Andrieux: The vegetable garden, p.168 Coloured illustration, half natural size. Album Benary: alte Gemusesorten, 1876 [Facsimile, text in German], tab.IV, Carrots, no.6 Listed in Sutton’s catalogue 1852. Taxonomy boxes: Historical variety lists. Thomas Etty: The roots of vegetables Blanche. An old Belgian, white-rooted variety. 2 colour photographs. Roger Phillips: Vegetables, p.122-123 See also William Woys Weaver’s Heirloom Vegetable Gardening, pages 126-127 History, cultivation, culinary hints, colour plate no.29 White Belgium, 1600s. Although there is little or nothing by way of documentary evidence, the mild-tasting White Belgium or Belgian White (known in France as Blanche) may well have come from Flanders, and has many similarities to an old variety known in seventeenth-century Britain as the Long White.

White carrots were grown long before orange carrots burst on to the scene, and of the few white carrots to survive in cultivation, White Belgium is reckoned to have the best flavour. A good cropper, even on lower quality soils (though it abhors frost), it makes a novel addition to salads, soups or stews, and would be worth experimenting with for an albino version of carrot cake. In France it is most esteemed as horse fodder. Christopher Stocks: Forgotten fruits: a guide to Britain’s traditional fruit and vegetables. Random House, 2008 100-120 days to maturity. These tend to be long thick roots that do well if they can be over wintered. They taste better in the spring. A friend pickles them with great success. Flowers prolifically the second year, even from 2” stumps. Seeds of Diversity Canada 2000, p.39 Referred to in Johnson's Gardeners' Dictionary (1894 edition) Listed in John Forbes Catalogue of Vegetable and Flower Seeds 1892, 1896 (as agricultural variety)

Carrot Topweight Catalogue Entry About 80 years old, an English main crop carrot now only available commercially outside Europe. It has a large, tapering root, reaching 25-30cm in length, with bright orange flesh. It produces a heavy yield and is said to withstand adverse weather conditions making it ideal for over wintering. Carrot Topweight Heritage Seed Library UK

References See also: Seed Savers Exchange. Garden seed inventory, 5th ed., p.173. 80 days. Large chunky bright orange carrot, 10-12” x 3” at shoulder, good grower in deep soils, keeps well in the soil, winter over type, yields under adverse conditions, fine quality Best resistance to pests & carrot virus. Heavy yielding. Sow spring and summer. Good for pots and heavy soil. 2½ cm round carrots, can be sown twice as thickly as common varieties.

The curator, Heritage Seed Curators Association, Australia 1997, p.40 90 days to maturity. Big carrots with good flavour, ideally 10 cm x 30 cm, but in my clay soil they grew to 5 cm x 20 cm. Need the whole summer to achieve maximum size. Seeds of Diversity Canada 2000, p.39

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