important in rotation cycles
The carrot (Daucus carota) is a vegetable member of the Apiaceae Family (Umbelliferrae), considered the most important and most consumed species within this group. The edible part of the plant grows underground. In fact, it is the most important root cultivar. It is a biannual plant, which forms a rosette of leaves in the springtime and summertime, while it develops its thick taproot; the root stores vast amounts of sugar for flourishing the following year.
This vegetable can supply up to 14% of the daily needs for vitamin A. Furthermore, it is also a source of calcium, and B complex as well as antioxidants. The root of the carrot can be eaten raw, boiled, puréed, in salads or pastries, or processed in juice and preserves. However, it is best eaten raw in order to attain a better absorption of its nutrients, given that when cooked, it loses part of its nutritional value.
It has been proven that eating carrots improves eyesight, because its vitamin A is turned into rhodopsin in the retina, a purple pigment, which is necessary for night vision. Also, beta-carotene can help fight macular degeneration and cataract formation. Carrots reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, properties attributed to the discovery of falcarinol and falcarindiol, which are natural substances contained in carrots. The antioxidants and vitamin A featured in carrots protect the skin.
Carrots were found in the wild over 3 millennia ago in Central Asia. Its cultivation for nutritional purposes originated in Afghanistan. Initially, it was grown for its leaves and fragrant seeds, not for its root. Even today, some of its relatives are grown for the first reason, as is the case with parsley, fennel, dill and cumin. Its introduction in the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea came by the hands of the Greeks and Romans before Christ. This vegetable as we know it today, reached Western Europe after the 15th century and it is believed that the orange color variety was developed in The Netherlands. Furthermore, carrots were introduced in America, by the 17th century, its nutritional properties were appreciated.
Carrot is a crop typical of cool climates. The ideal temperature for the crop fluctuates between 18o and 25°C. The thickened root growth is optimal in temperatures between 16° to 22°C. Thermal conditions influence in texture, coloring and growth of the cultivar. It is a demanding species, which requires strong light in order to grow well. Carrots prosper satisfactorily in light soils, rich in organic matter, with good drainage capacity and clayish to sandy texture. The most favorable pH is between 5.5- 6.8, even up to 7.5. Great variation in pH can cause root damage.
Planted carrots are grouped into five main types: the most recognized is the Chantenay, with prominent foliage, featuring a wide crown thickened root of conical shape, orange color and a weight ranging between 200-250 grams; Nantes, with short foliage, thickened taproot of 4cm diameter and 15- 17 cm length. It features a light orange color and weight inferior to the Chantenay; Imperator, known for possessing a long root, the reason why it requires deep and loose soils; it is popular in California; Danvers, cultivated for fresh raw consumption as well as processed, it features an intense orange color and very sweet flavor; finally we have the Oxheart type, of short thick taproot and rounded tips. Rounded carrots or beet type carrots are grown for specialty markets, as are, Baby carrots, Finger carrots or Amsterdam carrots that feature very small roots, and are known as miniature carrots, which measure from 1.3 to 2.0 cm. These are used mainly in preparing frozen mixed vegetables.
Carrot planting and production in the Dominican Republic
Inland, carrots are grown mainly in Constanza, Ocoa and Jarabacoa, due to fresh climate. It is used as a rotational crop, generally following garlic, potatoes and onions. In the lowest zones it is grown generally during the cooler months of the year (October to February), in order to take advantge of favorable temperatures. For having a relatively low technological intensity and production cost, as well as a return on production, this crop is considered safe and profitable.
The cultivation of carrots in our country is centered in the North Central regions, where 78% is grown and Central with 17%. The main carrot types grown inland are the Chantenay, Nantes, Imperator, Danves and Oxheart, the Chantenay being the main cultivated type. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, by 2011 in the country grew 266 hectares of carrots, with a production of 988,000 quintals. Regarding exportation, this crop has maintained an upward tendency. In 2011, exports of this vegetable increased considerably, reaching over US$1.5million.