Carrots are fun to grow at home and if you’re lucky, some of them will bolt to seed at the end of the season. Then, if you grew an heirloom or open pollinated variety, you can save those carrot seeds.
Saving carrot seeds is considered a job for more advanced gardeners, because the threat of cross pollination is high. Short growing seasons also complicate things (you may need to harvest roots in fall for replanting in spring in order to allow enough time to bolt to seed). But beginners don’t despair–if you live in a warm-winter climate it’s not hard, it just requires isolation, at least a half mile to be precise. And if you don’t have multiple carrot varieties or Queen Ann’s lace growing in your garden (or your neighbor’s), the threat of crossing is low.
In the Gardenerd Test garden last fall, we grew Little Fingers carrots along with other great varieties, but we harvested all the others as we noticed one Little Fingers starting to flower. We left it to bolt through summer and it began to dry out. (If you generally plant carrots in spring and have a cold winter, you may need to “harvest eating-sized roots in fall for replanting in fall or early spring…Clip tops to 1-2″ and store at 35-40 degrees F. in humid location or layered in sawdust or sand. Replant roots with desirable characteristics 30″ apart with soil just cover shoulders,” says seed saving guru, Bill McDorman.”)
Once most of the seed head turned brown, and a seed or two began to release from the cluster, we pulled the entire plant and laid it on newspaper indoors to dry completely.
Now, generally speaking, it’s best to save seeds from several carrots of the same variety to preserve genetic diversity. In our small garden, just one carrot went to seed, so that may result in less-vigorous seed stock down the line. It’s still worth a try, gardenerds!
Carrot seeds have fuzz all around them, or rather, they are “bearded.” Most seeds we purchase have been de-bearded. I have, however, planted seeds that have beards in tact. If the fine hairs come off during the cleaning process, it doesn’t affect seed viability or germination.
To harvest, simply rub the seed heads between your hands into a bucket or bag. Then winnow away the chaff to clean the seed. If you have a ton of seed to separate and clean, you can beat stalks against a bucket or the ground after laying out a sheet.
Label your seeds with the variety and harvest date and store in an envelope in a cool, dark and dry place. That’s it!
Have you harvested or grown your own carrot seeds? Share your experiences here. Feel free to post a comment. We love hearing from you.