The carrot is so much more diverse than the basic orange vegetable that you typically buy in the store. This wonderful and nutritious root vegetable comes in all shapes, sizes, and colours. Find the best types of carrots in this article.
The carrot (Daucus carota subsp. sativus) is an amazingly diverse vegetable, with far more varieties than what are found in the market. At the moment there are over 150 recognized varieties, all of which are unique in their tastes, flavour, and nutritional qualities. This article will introduce you to the different types of carrots and give you examples of carrot varieties for each type.
What are the different types of carrot?
How many types of carrots are there? Carrots can be grouped based on the growth form of their taproot, or their cultivation time untill harvest. While many carrot varieties are bred to have qualities that blur the line between groups, there are 6 main types of carrots.
Amsterdam: This type of carrot grows in a slender and cylindrical shape, from 6 to 10 cm long. They can be harvested 50 to 90 days from sowing, depending on the variety. Sweet, tender, and juicy when young, these are early maturing carrots that are typically bred for early harvest, or processed as baby carrots. These carrots are also unusual in the fact that they can grow straight even in heavier soils. However, they can get woody with age.
Chantenay: At around 10 to 13 cm, Chantenay carrots are considered short to medium in length with a conical shape. They are an early harvest type, maturing in 60 to 75 days. These carrots come in a variety of colours and have a delicious and strong flavour when eaten fresh, but also hold up well when cooked. Because of their size, they can tolerate heavier soils. Growing Chantelay carrots throughout the year is possible in the UK, and they can be stored in the ground during the winter with mulch to protect the roots from frost.
Danvers: Danvers carrots grow in a conical shape, from 15 to 18 cm long and 5 to 6 cm in diameter at the shoulder. They can be harvested 70 to 90 days from sowing. These carrots have a strong flavour, store well, and can be consumed fresh or cooked.
Imperator: These are long slender carrots, between 20 to 26 cm, with smooth skin and a deep orange colour. They are a very common type of carrot for commercial cultivation. Imperator carrots are ready for harvest in around 70 days, with earlier harvests being possible for smaller carrots. Late harvests are not recommended, as the carrots tend to get woody with age.
Nantes: Nantes-type carrots are a medium length carrot, at up to 18 cm long. They are mostly cylindrical with an abrupt taper at the end. They are known for their sweet flavour, tenderness, and colour. These carrots are ready for harvest in around 85 to 90 days.
Parisian: Resembling small orange radishes, these carrots are short and round, with a diameter of 2.5 to 4 cm. Because of their small size, they mature early, and can even grow well in containers or in heavier, stony soils. They can be harvested in 60 to 70 days from planting.
The best carrot varieties for growing at home
As mentioned earlier, there are many different varieties of carrots. While many are heirloom carrots, there are also hybrid carrot varieties. The best carrot variety to grow in your garden depends on your soil conditions, as well as when and how frequently you want to harvest. If you have heavy, stony soils, stick to shorter varieties, as you will experience growth defects with longer, larger carrot varieties.
Early carrot varieties are fast-growing. They can be started earlier in the season, with frost protection, and harvested earlier. You can optimise your harvests by planting early carrots varieties at regular intervals, after which you will be able to harvest at these intervals. Maincrop carrots, or late carrot varieties, tend to have strong flavours, be tougher in texture, and store longer.
Early carrot varieties
‘Adelaide’ F1: ‘Adelaide’ carrots are small, slender Amsterdam type carrots. Very early maturing, these carrots can be harvested in as little as 60 days. ‘Adelaide’ F1 carrots are great for forcing under a cloche or cold-frame greenhouse and can also be grown in a container.
‘Caracas’: A Chantenay type with flavourful, bright orange, short conical roots.
‘Early Nantes’: Shorter than a regular Nantes type, ‘Early Nantes’ carrots reach up to 15 cm long. They have a sweet flavour and can be eaten fresh or cooked.
‘Lunar White’: As far as white carrots go, ‘Lunar White’ is one of the best. While these large carrots can grow up to 30 cm, they are best harvested in 65 to 80 days, when they reach around 15 cm long. They taste as sweet as you would expect from an ordinary orange carrot, just without the pigments.
‘Nantes 5’: Another early Nantes type variety, ‘Nantes 5’ carrots have uniform cylindrical roots with a crisp texture and excellent flavour. They can be harvested in 60 to 75 days.
‘Nigel’ F1: This is a large, cylindrical, fast-growing Nantes type carrot up to 20 cm long. It has a great flavour, is crack resistant, and stores well.
‘Paris Market’: As a Parisian type, ‘Paris Market’ carrots are a small, golf ball sized carrot full of flavour and nutrition.
‘Purple Dragon’: With their beautiful purple skin and orange flesh, ‘Purple Dragon’ carrots are a unique Imperator type variety. They are ready to harvest in 65 to 80 days, so can be grown as an early carrot variety or throughout the season as a maincrop carrot.
‘Tendersweet’: ‘Tendersweet’ carrots can grow up to 18 cm long and, as the name suggests, are both tender and sweet. These carrots are ready for harvest 75 days after sowing.
‘Touchon’: These Nantes type carrots are ready to be harvested in 65 days. ‘Touchon’ carrots have a sweet flavour and store well.
Maincrop carrot varieties
‘Atomic Red’: An interesting red-fleshed variety, ‘Atomic Red’ carrots get their colour from lycopene. They have a great flavour and can be consumed fresh or cooked.
‘Autumn King 2’: A wonderful variety because they have a natural resistance to the carrot root fly. Sown in the summer, ‘Autumn King 2’ carrots can be harvested in the autumn, after 100 days of growth. Alternatively, you can leave them in the ground and harvest as needed throughout the winter.
‘Bangor’ F1: This hybrid variety produces cylindrical roots up to 25 cm long. They have a great flavour and store well.
‘Flyaway’: This wonderful variety is called the ‘Flyaway’ carrot because it lacks the chemical that attracts the carrot root fly. These carrots are bred to be resistant to the carrot root fly, without losing any of the tenderness or flavour of other varieties.
‘Nantes 2’: As an early summer crop, ‘Nantes 2’ carrots are ready to harvest in 100 days. They are tender and sweet with deep orange flesh.
‘Oxheart’: Maturing in 90 days, ‘Oxheart’ carrots have large, blunt roots that grow well in heavy or shallow soils. They grow between 10 to 13 cm long and can get to be 10 to 13 cm wide at their shoulders.
‘Purple Haze’ F1: Packed with nutrition, the ‘Purple Haze’ carrot has a beautiful, purple flesh with an orange core. These carrots are best consumed fresh as nutrients and colours fade when cooked. They are large carrots growing up to 25 cm long.
‘Sugarsnax 54’ F1: These are large, late season carrots, that can grow up to 25 cm long. They have an intense orange colour, are incredibly sweet, and can be eaten fresh or cooked.
‘Sweet Candle’: Sweet candle carrots are an excellent variety for a late summer or autumn harvest. They have a classic orange colour, a sweet flavour, and a cylindrical shape with a rounded tip.
Want to learn all the details on cultivating the various types of carrots mentioned here? Find out all you need to know about growing carrots in our detailed article on the subject.