Carrots are a tricky beast. Easy to grow yet difficult to successfully grow. Like so many other frustrated veggie growers our carrots are constantly plagued by carrot fly. Pursued incessantly throughout the summer months (most active May to September, so that’s basically ALL summer) by this destructive little fly. On paper the carrot fly sounds monstrous; smelling a thinned or freshly pulled carrot on the wind flying a distance to find your baby carrots, laying their eggs so that their grubs feast on the poor defenceless carrot. All the while the veggie grower is blissful in their ignorance, unaware of what horrors lurk beneath the soil. Not only do we have the carrot fly to do battle with but enter the ant and if you’re really unlucky, a mole. Our plot neighbour insist that ants constantly eat their carrot seedlings (jury are still out on that one). It’s not just the marauding pests but their quite picky about their environment. Lovers of fine sandy, free draining stone free soil. Snubbing any manure splitting and growing knobbly at the first sight of a stone. And we’ve all got conditions like that, right?
This year we meant carrot business! Filling one of new beds with a mix of compost and sharp sand. When it came to sowing to reduce the need to thin, thus attract the carrot fly I splashed out on some seed tape. A little pricey but worth it, or you can always make your own seed tape. In a later sowing I sowed thinly and then,shock, horror, didn’t thin at all. Now I don’t know if these ‘seedling eating’ ants did some thinning for us or more likely they just muscled it out amongst themselves, but there was no twisted ‘hugging’ carrots. Some people like to use a barrier to prevent the carrot fly finding their seedlings but I find these ugly. An alternative is companion planting, disguising the scent and appearance of the carrot with plants like chives, spring onion, flax and Nigella. This year we finally had for the first time ever-ever, some pretty decent carrots.There’s nothing like the joy of pulling a carrot from the earth, the smell, the bright orange glistening under the layer of earth. it’s just a shame that the carrot flies love them just as much.
So what did I do with our carrot harvest? Well one of my favourite M&S sandwiches is the Wensleydale and Carrot Chutney. It’s so sweet and not heavily ‘pickley’ like other pickles or chutney. After munching through a fair few of the M&S sarnies my thoughts turned to, how could I make this chutney myself? After a read of the packet and ponder over ingredients I came up with this recipe, My ‘Mocks & Spencer’ Sweet Carrot Chutney.
Sweet Carrot Chutney (My ‘Mocks & Spencer’ Sweet Carrot Chutney)
1.5kg Carrots grated
Good chunk of ginger
500g light brown sugar
2 oranges, zest and juice
600ml white wine vinegar
- Wash, trim and peel the carrots. I quite like to keep as much skin as possible as that’s where the flavours at.
- Grate carrots. This can be very time-consuming so I like to run them through the grater attachment on my food processor. Much quicker and you get a nice uniform fine pieces of carrot.
- Thinly slice or run your shallots through the food processor (to save you from tears)
- Add all your ingredients to a large stock pot and bring gently to simmering point.
- Once simmering away nicely maintain temperature and continue to simmer the mix for around and hour and half. Stirring occasionally.
- Once you are able to draw a wooden spoon through the mix causing the liquid to take a few seconds to fill back, you know your chutney is ready!
- Whilst still piping hot fill your sterilised jars with your chutney. Packing it down with the back of a spoon to exude any air bubbles. When full place your wax discs if using and seal the lid.
- Once cool store in a cool dark place to mature for a couple of months. If you have any left over or your impatient line me, I like to set a bit aside in a dish in the fridge to have fresh.
After maturing your chutney’s good to go! Lovely with Wensleydale cheese or on the side of a hot buttery jacket potato. I always make a jar up special just for opening at Christmas. The sweet sticky carrot chutney makes a lovely addition to a cheese board. Yum yum.