It’s time to plant the carrot seeds! As soon as the soil in the Dayton area can be worked in the spring, the carrot seeds can be planted (and actually, if you have a somewhat sheltered spot in the garden, you can plant some carrot seeds in the fall and be the first one on your block with carrots the following spring).
The carrot that we know today is a domesticated form of the wild carrot (known as Queen Anne’s Lace in America). The modern-day orange carrot has been selectively bred for a larger, more tender taproot. Most store-bought carrots are orange, although purple, red, white, and yellow varieties also exist, and can sometimes be found at the larger farm markets, such as the Sugarcreek Township farm market. The bright orange color comes from the high beta carotene content (this metabolizes into Vitamin A in your body).
Historically, carrots were first grown for their greens, which are the very best part to feed small pets. While carrot roots are fat-free and high in anti-oxidants and nutrients, half of their calories come from sugars. While carrot greens can be fed more liberally as part of your small pet’s daily diet, a ½ inch slice of carrot root per day is about enough for a rabbit or other small pet, due to the high sugar content.
Carrots are biennial plants, meaning they grow their fernlike leaves during the first year while building up the taproot (the part you eat). Large amounts of sugar are stored in the taproot for use the following year when the carrot blooms. If you harvest just a few leaves at a time and leave the taproot in the ground, the taproot will continue to produce more leaves all season long. Carrots are easily grown in large flowerpots, which can be brought indoors in the winter to delay the end of the growing season.
Carrots are an excellent source of Vitamins A, B6, C, K, folate, pantothenic acid, iron, copper and potassium, and are a good source of dietary fiber and manganese. Carrots are especially beneficial to the eyes, urinary tract, intestinal tract, and mucous membranes.
Consider growing even just one flowerpot of carrots to add to the variety of tastes, textures and nutrients in your rabbit, guinea pig or other small pet’s diet. Sometimes a freshly-picked carrot green is just the thing to tempt a poorly bunny into eating.
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