Carrots are a favourite due to their vitamin-rich nourishment and enticing crisp, sweet flavour. Nothing beats picking a beautiful carrot from the ground and bringing it straight into your kitchen to cook.
However, they don’t always look supermarket-perfect, some can be damn ugly and grotesque. You may have noticed hairy strings on carrots or carrots with multiple roots. Does this mean the carrots are bad? Or is this normal? Keep reading to find out!
Why Does My Carrot Grow Little Hairs?
When people harvest hairy or malformed carrots, they are generally disappointed. Imperfect carrots, or carrots with many roots or hairs, which are twisted around each other, can be caused by various factors, including spacing, soil type, fertility, pests, and disease.
These small hairs are just tiny roots, where the carrot has been trying to absorb more water and nutrients.
Here are a few reasons yours carrots do not look perfect:
Reason 1: Overcrowding.
If this is the case, try thinning them to an inch apart when the leaves reach about three inches in height the next time. If they are overcrowded, they are fighting for nutrients and water in the soil
Reason 2: Type of Soil
Did you plant your carrots in clay soil? When you have heavy clay soil, the clay might cause the roots to grow twisted.
Add well-broken-down leaves and well-rotted compost to the clay soil in next year’s carrot planting. Carrots thrive in light (sandy), fluffy soil that is not overly modified.
Reason 3: Root-Knot Nematodes.
Root-knot nematodes can cause ‘deformed’ roots. You can either confirm this with a soil test and then solarize (treat soil with the sun’s heat using plastic sheets in the summer) or rotate your carrots to another region the next time.
Reason 4: Fertilizer
Did you fertilize before planting your carrots? Carrots can produce many roots or become “hairy” if they receive too much nitrogen (over-fertilization).
Ask your local garden centre for a good compost for growing carrots, they will know what works best with the local soil.
Reason 5: Did you Leave it in the Ground for Too Long
Have you left your carrots in the ground for too long? Carrots are biennial plants. They develop a taproot during the first growing season. The secondary roots grow from the taproot, and the blooming stem grows the following year.
If you planted your carrots last fall and overwintered them in the ground, they should be sending out whitish secondary roots and possibly a stem by now. Some types break more quickly than others.
In Summary: Are Carrots with Hairs Safe to Eat?
The white “hairs” are tiny roots growing in search of moisture. Cracks can occur due to a lack of water or the carrot attempting to grow around something in the soil (pebbles, rocks, etc.).
These hairy carrots are okay to eat as long as they are not slimy and remain solid to the touch.
You can scrub the “hairs” off using a vegetable brush, then examine the cracks/splits to ensure no decay is present before eating.
Brian Sheridan has an allotment in Edgbaston and is a competitive grower. Brian is also a keen photographer and loves cooking. Brian and his wife Mary will also be running a stall at Edgebaston artisan market this year, selling products made from the allotment, including his award-winning relish!