Saving Carrot Seed : Rainy Day Activity #1

A few weeks ago I snipped the dried out seed heads off of my carrots and plonked them in a big bowl for a rainy day. Well folks, yesterday was a particularly rainy day so, I sat down at the table and started harvesting those seeds. This really is one of those “sitting in front of your favorite show” type activities. Sometimes Paul and I sit at the table together processing seed & shooting the breeze. If we’re really lucky friends or family might join us. It’s a nice thing to do while you’re sitting there chit-chatting.

The things youll need to process your carrot seed.

Carrot seed is one of those slightly fiddly seeds to harvest and clean but, don’t be put off because it is really rewarding.

Carrots are members of the Umbelliferae family, which is quite easy to tell when we look at the way the flowers, or seed heads are formed. The flower/seed heads are called umbels – yes, they resemble umbrellas. You probably wouldn’t believe that carrot flowers can grow up to six feet tall. True!

Carrot seed and umbel.

The idea of saving carrot seeds can also be quite daunting because they are deemed “biennial”, meaning that they aren’t expected to produce flowers/seeds until the second spring/summer. It should be noted however, that it’s not always the case. In my experience it depends on the variety, the time of year the carrots were sown, and most importantly, the weather conditions. My latest batch of seed came from a single carrot, sown autumn-winter, that flowered sometime in spring and had seed ready to harvest by late summer-early autumn – the end of the first season.

Ok, so lets get down to the nitty-gritty.

Harvesting the seed:

Once the seed heads have formed and sufficiently dried, snip them off as I did and pop them in a bowl. If the seed is well formed but the umbel has not completely dried out and you find that the weather is wet, it is fine to cut the umbels (leaving 10cm of stem attached) and bring them inside to dry.

Processing the seed:

You will notice that the seeds have what is known as a “beard” attached to the seed coat. Practically all seed you buy from seed suppliers will come to you having had the beard removed. Whether or not you de-beard your carrot seed is totally up to you. The beard is, of course, there for a purpose and that is to assist the seed working itself down into the soil. So, there is certainly no harm in you leaving the beard on your seed. Personally, I find it easier to handle without the beard and I love the smell of carrot oil that is released when you rub the seeds together. To remove the “beard” simply rub the seeds between your hands until the seeds become smooth. You will notice that the chaff will fall away as the beards are crushed. I let it all drop down onto the table, picking it up and rubbing again and again until the seed is sufficiently clean.

From there I scoop it all up, pop it into my tea strainer and shake it all around until I am left with clean seed. Notice that my sieve isn’t the finest you can buy. You need it to have enough space to allow the chaff to go through but not your seeds. My hot tip is to do this in smaller batches, as it is easier to shake the seed around.

And that’s it. Just store your seed as you would any other (for more details, see my earlier post on ‘general seed saving practices’).

Now, before I go I should tell you a couple of important things to be aware of when saving carrot seed.

1. It is recommended that you allow at 500m between carrot varieties to avoid cross-pollination (unless, of course, you are hoping to crossbreed your own carrots). Also note that if you are growing Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota –wild carrot) you should be careful not to allow them both to flower at the same time i.e. cut off the Queen Anne’s Lace flowers. If the two are allowed to cross the Queen Anne’s Lace will dominate.

2. The umbels (flowers/seed heads) at the top of the plant will produce the biggest and best seed. For every set of umbels below that the quality of the seed is reduced. That does not mean that it is no good, just that it is of lesser quality.  You should always use the best seed if you intend to save seed again.

In terms of viability, carrot seed has a relatively short shelf life. The seed can be kept for up to three years if stored well.

Good luck and have fun xx

Oh and just because I know how much people love Chickie-boombah, this is what she likes to do on rainy days 😉

Chickie Boombah doesnt like rain. Shed rather stay inside & eat peaches.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Hi Jodi! Thanks for visiting me and introducing me to your blog! Love it. For Earth Day…I’m doing my garden a favour and actually getting around to spreading the compost and worm wee around. And like you will try planting more natives!

    Reply

  2. That’s really interesting! I’ve never gotten around to saving carrot seeds (mainly because soooo many come in a packet), but I will have to try it this year.

    Reply

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