Gringo Short Carrots
18th Aug 2004
The vegetable that gave me most satisfaction last season was undoubtedly my short carrots, or stump carrots, as they are often referred to. The variety was Gringo and this one has almost certainly ruled the roost for many years now. The reason without a doubt is its brilliant skin finish together with it's marvellous uniformity of shape. I have to say that my four beds currently growing away really do look well and are certainly on par, at least as the foliage goes, with those last year. I have two sowings, one on the 29th April and the other a week later which should cover all my shows through to the NVS Midland Championships at Malvern at the end of September.
My first pull will start next weekend for the Welsh Championships at Margam Park Port Talbot. This venue has certainly been marvellous for this spectacle with the Orangery possibly being the best venue that you could possibly get anywhere in the country. Next year however the Welsh show will move up North to Wrexham where I trust that my Northern colleagues will give it their 100% support.
Selecting the carrots prior to pulling is important and it certainly pays to spend a bit of time going carefully through the bed to identify those that are growing to match each other by shoulder size. In reality this is the only guide you have as to what is eventually going to appear before your eyes. Naturally you have no real knowledge of their length or whether or not they have developed a 'distinct stump end" - to quote from the NVS Judges Guide.
However, Jim Thompson, who regularly manages to exhibit quality Gringo carrots has his own way of even determining these last two merits. After deciding that he has a few that match each other in diameter, he then uses a 4 inch pipe to core down close to each carrot. This then allows him to push his hand down the cored hole and feel for the bottom end of the carrot. This will let him know how long it is as well as if it has developed a stump end which is also a sign of maturity. If the carrot is too long or it hasn't developed properly then Jim leaves it where it is and just fills the cored out hole with the sand he removed from it. To many of us this may be taking it a bit far but it certainly prevents you from pulling carrots that you may well not use for the show bench.
When I have decided that the largest shouldered batch of carrots have been identified, I then commence to pull them. Be wary, particularly with Gringo, that you do actually expose the full diameter of the shoulder which can be as low down as an inch below what first appears as a shoulder. This is simply because Gringo starts off by tapering downwards to form the full shoulder and then slowly tapers down to it"s stumpy end. Over the past few years, as I always keep my stump carrots bed moist, they are withdrawn from their bore hole just as they are, in other words I don't saturate each bore hole prior to pulling them.
Clear away carefully more sand and compost from around the carrot, you must take care not to scratch the skin as this will become evident after they have been washed. Trim off the foliage leaving about four inches of stalks and then grab firmly around the foliage of the carrot. Gently pull upwards whilst at the same time revolving the carrot around in the bore hole. This is done for two reasons, it snaps off any side roots that could be a hindrance in pulling the carrot and it also gives you an indication of it's eventual quality. What you are observing when turning the carrot around in it's own hole is whether or not it's turning round within it's own circle. If the carrot centre moves way out to the side and you have difficulty in even turning it around, then that carrot will not be good enough for the show bench as it's body when it's removed will be bent or curved. Usually when they are badly curved they are impossible to straighten and are best left for the kitchen.
If the carrots are slightly curved then they can be straightended, but only if you have a strong stomach and equally strong heart. The fact is that you have to make an instant decision, Whether or not the carrot is going to be of any use to you in its current form. If it isn't, then you have nothing to lose have you in having a go at straightening it. This has to be carried out as soon as the carrot is removed from the bore hole by holding tight to the carrot with one hand and then bending it firmly but gently away from the curve. (picture attached) Once you have managed to do this successfully without snapping it. Keep it in that position for about two minutes and you'll be amazed how straight it is. After a bit of practice and a few cracked specimens !! I have become quite good at it. I do stress though that I only attempt it if the carrot is not going to be utilised in it's original form.
Whatever you do, don't come hunting for me at the shows if you have cracked some of your best specimens, I won't be around, I shall be hiding under the benches with a hard hat on!!