Carrot Varieties - What's the Difference?

carrot varieties

There are several types of carrot varieties available to the backyard vegetable gardener. Some folks are surprised to learn that carrots come in different shapes, sizes and colors. Generally speaking, the smaller the carrot, the faster it matures. Larger carrot varieties can take up to 80 days to reach maturity, while smaller varieties can reach their full size in just 60 days. We like to plant a few different varieties and sizes. This gives us a nice mix of different carrots and also extends the harvest season. We also spread out the planting times over 7-10 days. This way, we get a steady supply of carrots over several weeks, instead of getting them all at once.

When choosing which varieties of carrots you want to grow, take a couple of things into consideration.  First, choose a variety that is appropriate for your growing season.  If you are growing carrots in the spring, you want them to have plenty of time to mature before the heat of summer sets in.  Remember, carrots are a cool season vegetable that doesn't grow that well in hot weather.

In our garden, we typically grow carrots in the spring and fall.  We usually choose smaller, faster growing varieties for our spring crop.  We typically use most of our spring carrots fresh, as wel pick them.  We like to choose a couple of different varieties that mature at different times.  This way, the length of the harvest gets extended and we can plan on eating fresh carrots for several weeks in the late spring.  We grow larger varieties that take longer to mature in the fall.  The idea is that the weather will get cooler and we don't have to worry about the plants suffering any heat stress during the fall.  Most of the carrots that we grow in the fall get stored in our root cellar, or canned or frozen.

Another factor in choosing carrot varieties is determining exactly what you want to do with the carrots.  Specialty carrots are often eaten fresh - those that are shaped like golf balls, or are thin are typically best eaten fresh.  They can certainly be frozen or canned, but they don't store well for long periods in a root cellar.  Other carrots are just better suited to canning or storing.  These varieties are often bigger and they give you a much higher yield when measuring the weight of the carrots you can harvest per square foot of garden space.

Here is a list of some different varieties of carrots, along with descriptions and size information:

Round Carrots

  • Thumbelina - this unique variety produces round, orange carrots about the size of a golf ball, good for denser soil, ready in 65 days
  • Danvers Half Long - this heirloom variety dates back to the 1880s and features dark orange, cone shaped carrots that are 2 inches thick at the top and 6-8 inches long, ready in 75 days
  • Nantes Half Long - cylindrical carrots reach 6-7 inches long and 1 1/2 inches across at the top, red-orange color, ready in 70 days

  • Yellowstone - this variety produces slender, yellow carrots that reach 8-10 inches long, very unique, ready in 70 days

  • Short and Sweet - produces 4 inch long, cylindrical shaped carrots, bright orange, good for containers, ready in 68 days

Multi-Colored Carrots
  • Purple Dragon - features purple exterior and orange core, appears similar to red cabbage when shredded, very unique, ready in 68 days

  • Rainbow Hybrid - this unique variety produces different colored carrots, each being completely orange, yellow or white, ready in 65 days

  • Big Top - Asian variety that produces cone shaped orange carrots that reach 8 inches long, very good for baby carrots, full size carrots are ready in 80 days

    • Nelson - produces deep orange, cylinder
      shaped carrots that reach 7 inches long, classic carrot, ready in 60 days
    • Amarillo - this heirloom carrot variety produces lemon-yellow colored carrots that average 8 inches long, tapered roots, ready in 85 days, excellent choice for juicing
    • Kuttiger - ready in 70 days, heirloom variety with creamy white roots, good for storage, tapered shape, good for storage
    • Saint Valery - best heirloom variety for juicing, very flavorful with hints of ginger, bright orange, cylindrical roots average 10-12 inches, originated in France, ready in 70 days
    • Gniff - a Swiss heirloom carrot, sharply tapered, features a white core and purple skin, ready in 100 days, produces lavender juice
    • Kyoto Red - a Japanese heirloom variety, ready in 80 days, produces redish-orange carrots that average 10-16 inches long, excellent flavor and very sweet, 

    Harvested Carrots

    Click here to learn about planting carrots

    Click here for information about fertilizing and watering carrots

    Click here to learn about harvesting and storing carrots

    Click here for some of our favorite carrot recipes

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