Sometimes I wonder why I even bother growing carrots when a bag of organically grown carrots is 99 cents at the supermarket! There are a few reasons why we choose to grown our own. Homegrown carrots have not traveled X thousands of miles. No one else handle them other than the gardener from start to finish. But the reason above all is I live for the smiles radiating from our daughters' faces as the bright colorful roots come out of the ground. Alas, we live in Miami, FL where tropical monsoon is our climate and growing sweet carrots can be a challenge.
The sweet or bitter taste of carrots depends on both the environment and genetics. I am not a carrot expert by any stretch of the imagination although it would be pretty neat to be an expert at something. But here goes a couple things I consider when growing carrots in our growing zone.
Choosing the right variety for our zone. The genetic bit to consider. Miami is hot. It's a must to go with cultivars that have high heat tolerance and disease resistance. New Kuroda is a Chantenay type favored for its heat tolerance and was bred for subtropical climate. Sunrise Red is another that was specifically bred for TROPICAL and subtropical climate. Mokum is a variety from Johnny Seeds I would like to try because they're supposed to be sweet even in warm weather.
Cultivating methods. When nights are warmer, carrots spend the sugars as part of respiration rather than storing it. Mulch and mulch to keep soil nice and cool.
Time of day to harvest. Carrots undergo photosynthesis during the day to make sugars. From my readings, the best time to harvest is at the end of the day when the sugar content is high. When the sugar content is high, it masks the unpleasant bitter taste. This is especially true when night time temperature is above the desirable of 50s and the sugars are spent on respiration.
So what to do if you end up with a bumper harvest of ahem... bitter carrots? Definitely don't throw it out! It's perfectly safe to eat. Question though what to do to make it palatable and dare I ask delicious. The best suggestion I learned is to cook them for a long time to draw out the sugar therefore sweetness. Also nothing tempers bitter better than salt. Season well without oversalting! Here’s a recipe to try carrots bitter or not.
MISO GLAZED CARROTS
2 lbs carrots, sliced at an angle 1/4 inches thick
4 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
1 tbsp miso paste
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp unseasoned rice vinegar
2 tbsp canola oil
1/2 cup scallion, sliced
Sesame for garnishing
Bring a pot of water to a boil, blanched carrots 2-3 minutes. Drain and set aside. Beat butter, miso, sugar, vinegar and sugar in a medium bowl. Heat canola oil over high heat in a flat bottomed skillet. Add carrots and allow to char (at high heat it happens fairly quick). Add miso butter and sliced scallions reserving some garnishing at the end. Toss carrots until butter starts to brown. Remove from the heat. Serve on large plate garnish with remaining scallions and sesame seeds.