I bought a 1kg bag of carrots from the supermarket the other day for a quid. That's cheap! Unfortunately, supermarket carrots are always a bit dull - lacking flavour mostly but also a bit of character. It's just not the same if you don't have to wash off a bucket of mud before you can start peeling - and of course, the odd fork just makes the peeling process all that more interesting!
It is undeniably easy to take a pre-washed, straight carrot out of a bag, peel it, chop it and boil it but they are pretty much tasteless. And at this time of year they are on the verge of rotting from the moment you buy them. A couple of days in the fridge and one end or the other starts to go squidgy and brown. It is for this reason that I grow my own carrots.
Every year I struggle to get the carrot seeds to germinate in our thick clay, then struggle to keep them alive and fend off the slug attacks. And then in the summer I struggle to break them out of the concrete-clay and in the winter I struggle to heave them out of the sticky clay. Most of them grow with forks, others split and some grow so close together they wind round and round each other and produce twisty carrots. At the same time, we sow a few seeds in wooden planters on my girls plot in a mixture of potting compost and sand. When they want to harvest their carrots they just give a gentle tug and out they pop, all straight and very nearly clean.
So this year I found myself wondering why I don't just grow all out carrots like that. There was no sensible answer to that question so I went out and bought 3 window box troughs and 2 "salad" growing sacks. To fill them, I also bought 3 x 120l multi-purpose compost and 3 bags of sharp sand. I mixed the compost and the sand in fairly equal measures in the wheelbarrow then filled the containers, watered and sowed the seeds. The need for watering did not stop there and I have watered regularly ever since and I even had to go out and buy a replacement rose-end to my watering can so as not to damage the seedlings as they emerged.
Today I have repeated the process to sow parsnips in potato bags. My hope is that they will still grow to their usual 18 inch length but that it will be sooooo much easier to harvest.
Now I'm wondering how much it has cost to grow a few carrots - the cost of the containers. the compost, the sand, the seed, the watering can accessories, not to mention man-hours that have been invested into these carrots. When you think how cheaply you can pick up a bag of carrots from the supermarkets you have to wonder if it is worth it. Purely economically speaking the answer is very likely to be no but when it comes to variety and flavour the answer will be yes!