Looking at the Oxheart carrot I did wonder if this was a carrot even Bugs Bunny would have difficulty getting his teeth into. Oxheart is an heirloom French variety, also known as Guerandes and is from the famous carrot growing region of Nantes, dating back to 1884. It is an unusual, large, almost heart shaped carrot which is why it got its name. Oxheart are quite short (up to 15cm) but also wide (up to 12cm) and can weigh up to 500g each. The blunt shape means it is good for shallow or heavy soils and it stores well.
In the kitchen
Oxheart has a good heritage carrot flavour. It has a large core and is generally used for cooting rather than fresh. I cut in to wedges and roasted for half an hour at 180c but you could also slice and steam for 15 minutes. Try in Roasted Vegetable Chilli
Yield and plant health
A well grown specimen can be palm sized and can be up to about 500g each and should be harvested at around 90 days. To achieve this size you will have to space them out quite a bit so the yield is probably a little lower than some of its longer, more slender cousins.
Unfortunately Oxheart is susceptible to all the usual pests and diseases that normal carrots get. Mine did get some carrot fly but one thing I did notice was that their chubby nature meant that you could peel off what had been attacked by the fly and still have decent amounts left.
I did notice a few split roots which need to be eaten first.
Carrots need a sunny spot with very friable stone free soil. If you are on a heavy clay then consider growing stump rooted varieties or growing in raised beds or containers. Your soil should not have been manured the previous year as that can cause forking.
Early varieties can be direct sown in February although they will do better under fleece. Later viariets can be sown in March through to July. Sow very thinly, 1 cm deep in rows 20cm apart. Although once germinated carrots will need little watering, do not allow rows to dry out until the seedlings are up.
Once seeds have germinated thin to 1 every 5 cm. Remove the thinking’s as the smell can attract carrot fly.
Carrots will not need much watering other than in very dry conditions. I do give them a bit of a mulch as they start to bulk up to stop the tops going green if exposed to light which can cause bitterness.
Harvest early varieties from May and later varieties June to October, about 12 weeks after sowing. In hotter parts of the UK you may be able to overwinter carrots, especially if kept under a layer of straw. For areas with heavy or prolonged frosts the usual process to store carrots is to harvest in October and store in slightly damp sand or coir in a cool dark place such as a garage or cellar. If you want to store your carrots grow main crop carrots like Autumn King.
Splitting & forking
Forking can be caused by adding manure to a bed too soon before sowing. Usually it is recommended not to manure a carrot bed for at least a year before. it can also be caused by stones in the soil. Splitting is usually caused by over or irregular watering.
Carrot fly is a pest that lays eggs on the carrots and the larvae burrow in to the carrot causing damaged and unsightly carrots. The flies find the carrots by smell so some recommend growing smelly vegetables like onions and garlic alongside or smelly herbs and flowers like lavender or marigolds. Very fine insect mesh will keep them off and if you can erect a barrier a foot or more high they are not supposed to fly very well. However many people say that no-one has told their carrot fly that. If the flies really are driving you crazy there are two resistant varieties called Flyaway and Resistafly even they are not completely immune though. Carrot fly is most active in April/May and then again July/August so if you can avoid thinning during that time it is less likely to attract them.
Slugs and snails can damage young sowings so applying nematodes in early spring is beneficial.