Garden of Eatin' / Vegetables

This Little Carrot…

Carrot harvest

Once in a while I’ll find volunteer carrots in the garden — tiny fern-like sprouts poking up from in between the mulch, or growing happily next to the numerous volunteer squash that seem to pop up all over the place after a new layer of compost has been laid.

These volunteer carrots come from seeds that have flown from nearby beds of flowering carrots. I usually have a few plants flowering at the end of the season, and not because they’ve been in the ground for two years.

While carrots are technically biennials, they often behave like annuals in warm climates. A seed sown in our mild winters, while temperatures are fluctuating between warm and cool, will be tricked into thinking it’s already gone through a winter at the end of its first year.

When spring rolls around just a couple months later, the plant will produce a tall, thin stalk with lacy, umbrella-like blooms reminiscent of Queen Anne’s lace (as the two hail from the same family, Umbelliferae, known for its distinctive flowers called umbels). Umbels (which are also seen on flowering parsnip, parsley, cilantro, dill, and fennel) are very attractive to pollinators, so you should always let a few of your Umbelliferae go to seed when they’re spent.

Overwintered carrot

Carrot in bloom

Umbels on a carrot plant

White umbel

I pulled the tiny carrots alongside a “regular” carrot, which probably should’ve been harvested much sooner, as it rivals the colossal carrot I’d grown a couple of years ago!

Carrot harvest

Colossal carrot

Chantenay Red Core carrot

The beauty of volunteer carrots is the little surprise you find at the base of the stem… Will it be magenta, orange, white? They look like they belong on a plate in a dollhouse, but I love to use them as garnish on a salad plate. Like microgreens, only prettier. And they still pack all the powerful phytonutrients that microgreens are known for — despite their tiny size, microgreens have been found to contain four to six times more nutrients than their mature counterparts. Now that makes volunteer carrots seem much more special in the garden!

Carrot seedling

Tiny volunteer carrot

About Author

I'm a plant lover, passionate road-tripper, and cookbook author whose expert advice and bestselling books have been featured in TIME, Outside, HGTV, and Food & Wine. The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook is my latest book. Garden Betty is where I write about modern homesteading, farm-to-table cooking, and outdoor adventuring—all that encompass a life well-lived outdoors. After all, the secret to a good life is... Read more »


  • Laurie
    June 9, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    I have never seen carrot flowers before. They are lovely! I think I will leave one of mine to flower now just so I can see them in person. 🙂

    • Linda Ly
      June 11, 2014 at 4:49 pm

      You’ll get a few flowers per plant. I sometimes collect them for a vase. 🙂

  • RW
    June 7, 2014 at 8:28 pm

    That is one beautiful carrot!! I love the pictures of all the veggies you grow. I also love to use as much of each plant we grow as possible, can you eat carrot greens??

  • Cherity Cook
    June 7, 2014 at 6:21 am

    Is it weird to call a carrot cute? Because that is one very cute carrot. 🙂

    • Linda Ly
      June 7, 2014 at 7:45 pm

      Not at all, I do it all the time. 🙂


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