Gardens - Fruit & Vegetable Gardening

Five seductive vegetables for your garden

Discover the origins and plant lore of these intriguing edibles and learn how to make them thrive in your garden


thumbelina-carrot.jpgCarrot 'Thumbelina'

Daucus carota sativus

In seventeenth-century England, the Elizabethan and Stuart fashion for decorating hats, sleeves, and dresses with flowers, fruits, feathers, and the like was amusingly extended to include the feathery tops of carrots, the lacy green foliage being thought especially fetching when "coloring up" in the fall.

That sweet, crisp, bright orange "Bugs Bunny" of a vegetable we now identify as the carrot is a distant cry from the small, tough, pale-fleshed, and bitter persona of its original wild ancestor. Countless millennia old, the members of the Daucus carota family were not always the edible darlings they have become, the Greek naturalist and historian Pliny reporting in the first century A.D.: "There is one kind of wild pastinaca which grows spontaneously . . . . Another kind is grown either from the root transplanted or else from seed, the ground being dug to a very considerable depth for the purpose. It begins to be fit for eating at the end of the year, but it is still better at the end of two; even then, however, it preserves its strong pungent flavour, which it is found impossible to get rid of."

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