Re-selecting Seed for Long and Short Carrots
11th Dec 1996
I have been reselecting my own seed of both long and short carrots for more years than I care to remember now and I'm convinced that through this process I have certainly improved my selection from the original strain. If you have re planted your own carrot for seed production you should have chosen a specimen that has all the right characteristics to match the criteria as laid down in the Royal horticultural show Handbook.
Shape and Form
For long carrots this means that you want a specimen that has good length, preferably slowly tapering right along it's length. It should also have good size and weight and this weight should be evenly distributed right along and around the carrot giving it as near a perfect form as possible. For this very reason, contrary to some growers and judges, I never had any problem in understanding or evaluating what the term 'Form' was supposed to mean when it used to be applied to vegetables as a meritorious attribute. It has now been changed to the word ‘Shape' and both Size and Shape together gives you 4 points from a maximum of twenty for carrots.
Most vegetables in the handbook have points for ‘Shape' but in my opinion all vegetables have a shape but only the well grown specimens have good form. The best way to consider form is to imagine a perfectly straight line running right through the vegetable from the centre of the shoulder (as in carrots and parsnips for instance) ending up at the tip of the root. The same can be applied to onions with the imaginary line running from the centre of the neck through to the centre of the root plate.
To achieve perfect form the carrot or onion should be evenly distributed along the whole length of this line if you were to rotate that vegetable through 360°. This means that the vegetable has been well grown and the grower has taken great care, particularly with onions, to ensure that they have been grown perfectly erect in their beds. Strangely, though ‘Shape' is meritorious in the handbook under the heading for Beetroot Long, there is no mention of it under the heading for Beetroot Globe and Cylindrical. If therefore Form was changed to mean Shape in order that most growers and judges would understand the term, then on the basis of the imaginary line mentioned above surely a well grown beetroot should have good shape as well?
Carrots should also have well developed shoulders clear form the foliage and although greening of the shoulder is an obvious defect, it shouldn't prevent you from re planting a specimen for producing seed as this is purely a cultural fault and not a genetic one which could be reproduced the following season.
I select a minimum of six carrots for producing seed, all of which will be as alike as possible these are then planted up in 6" diameter plastic pipes about two foot long or florist buckets with the lower section of the roots cut off. The carrots are kept indoors at this time of year and the biggest problem can be too much moisture as the plants are trying to re establish a root system. Another problem are the perennial slugs. Make sure therefore that you keep your watering to a minimum and apply slug pellets on a regular basis around the surface of the compost and remove dead stalks around the shoulder.
Long Black Beet
This year I am trying to cross pollinate my own selection of Long Black Beet with a smoother long red variety which has well formed shoulders and similar to a well grown Cheltenham Green Top. They have both been planted together in a twelve inch pot and are now growing away from my other plants at the university college greenhouses at Bangor. What I would like to achieve eventually would be a dark red beetroot of good length but with a smooth shaped body with no twisting characteristics and having a well shaped clean shoulder. It will be interesting to see what sort of plants I get from the resulting seed.