Short Carrots - in particular Gringo - and whether or not they should conform to a certain length
26th Aug 2004
Last week I wrote about short Carrots and in particular the variety Gringo that's been winning regularly now for many years on the show bench. Since I wrote that article I have had numerous people contacting me regarding the length of short carrots and whether or not they should conform to a certain length. This is interesting because I have had a few growers contacting me saying that their Gringo has grown in length to anything between 15 and 21 inches. I have to say that from my experience I have never had one grow anywhere near that sort of length and it begs the question, is it a cultural problem?
In my opinion I am totally convinced that it is a cultural problem and nothing to do with the seed. Gringo is an F1 hybrid and every one thinks that each and every carrot they pull will be exactly the same. This is certainly not true as the hybridising does certainly improve natural vigour and colour but cultural techniques can definitely effect the length of the carrot. It is after all a tap root and is constantly growing both outwards and downwards in search of moisture.
Many years ago when Corrie, an F1 hybrid, was first introduced I was the first person probably to grow it for exhibition and also the first to win with it at National level. After my success, with a superbly highly coloured set of six which, in those days, made the straight or non hybrid varieties look distinctly orange, I decided to sell it in my seed catalogue. The results were astounding, everyone wanted to grow Corrie and with a few exceptions they were picking up the Red Cards. The strange thing however was that many growers had a problem with it"s length it was getting to be well over 12 inches in some instances.
Method of Growing
Naturally I had a few complaints stating that as my set on the bench was always between 6 and 8 inches in length, how was it therefore that theirs was much longer even though it was a hybrid! I then telephoned the breeder to see if he could offer some light on the matter as obviously everyone had exactly the same seed as myself. His reply was that because of the method we grow them, i.e. Predominantly in sand, watering was the key factor. It seems to me that every F1 hybrid carrot responds near enough to the same treatment - if you keep the bed on the dry side. It's natural for the tap root, because that is what a carrot is, to go down searching for the moisture it needs. The breeders advice at that time was to make sure that the bed was kept uniformly moist, right from day one, they wouldn"t then have to extend down in search of moisture and be longer than their natural breeding line.
Chanteney Red Cord
The reason my short carrots consistently remain around the same length is the fact that I do this regularly without fail from the day the seed is sown right up to harvesting time. The strange thing in all this however is the fact that my own re selection of Chantenay Red Core rarely if ever grow much longer than they are intended. Of course the process of selection is important over the years, refining the strain as I go along. More important though is the fact that both carrots are totally different in their make up. The Chantenay that I sell is a straight variety - a non hybrid so it is therefore very much its own and only family.
The hybrid though, such as Gringo and many others, have a background of hybridisation that is a mixture of two kinds of carrots. This is where the plot really thickens because the breeders will never tell you what their breeding material is only that they have bred them to satisfy a certain criteria. There is no doubt about it that the internal structure as well as the external colour of modern hybrids are far superior to any of the old chantenays. Amongst their priorities therefore was the need to satisfy the housewife - develop a carrot that had a lovely crisp core, none of the that deep yellow centre that you see in the straight varieties – including the long ones.
They therefore have to introduce these merits from another variety, purely for the colour, texture and skin condition – to name just a few. One of the parents would obviously have to be a Chantenay if they were going to sell the new hybrid as an F1 Chantenay variety. The other breeding line could well be a Berlicum type which is longer and therefore pulls longer when the beds are being kept too dry. Try it and see, I would love to know if you managed to keep the length of your Gringo within sensible parameters.