The Frost Came and the Carrots Were Good

I hope you had a good Carrot Day. It was a difficult year for carrots here in Massachusetts with the large population of bunnies and the drought. Droughts and wildlife are real and part of Carrot Day. That said there were many Carrot Day Celebrations. I personally celebrated in three of them and all were good. And the carrots tasted good.

This quartet of pictures show a range of outcomes from the year. The one on the left is from Jenny’s garden in Vermont, the next picture are June and Nikiesha, two teachers from South Shore Charter, where Carrot Day began. In the text June sent to me with the picture she said, “Sadly, this is our Carrot Day harvest due to the drought.” The third photo is of the plentiful harvest of carrots from the school garden at South Elementary School in Plymouth. The fourth is of a student with a big carrot he has just pulled from the garden at the Community Charter School of Cambridge.

A few days before Thanksgiving Christine Godfrey, the Liberian and the leader of Carrot Day at the South Elementary School (SES) in Plymouth, wrote me an email . She wrote:

“Hi Ted, 

I’m writing quickly, and I will send you a proper email later this week with all my pics. But man! We got crazy carrots again this year at SES! 

125 kids + 1 seed each = 32.6 LBS of carrots!” 

These are pictures for Carrot Day at SES.

For more pictures and information about Carrot Day at SES you can go to her Instagram account at @mrsgplymouth.

But Carrot Day is not only about successful harvests, it is also about unsuccessful harvests. One difficulties of our current American Culture is our general disconnection from the land. We have an artificial and false sense of the limitless of resources and a belief in infinite choice and the lack of a need to sacrifice. No matter the season we believe that we can choose any food on any day. Having a garden and especially a garden that has a hard season connects us with food and how difficult it is to grow food. When we see the plenty of the grocery store it is hard to understand the labor and the needed resources that produce that food.

Christine Godfrey of South Elementary School learned about Carrot Day from her sister Alene LaRosa. Alene’s children experienced Carrot Day starting about ten years ago at South Shore Charter and Alene has been part of many Carrot Days. While Christine’s carrots grew her sister Alene’s did not. Below is part of an email Alene wrote to me about this year’s carrots.

“Hello Dear Ted!

We had a difficult summer on a personal level for this family (our immediate family of four are all healthy and safe!) and I feel like our small garden reflected that. There was a need for growth on a foundational level, a return to “the soil” to fortify what was missed, perhaps in childhood or early on, and our garden I think was in the same position.  We got little yield and — no carrots!!   

I have to admit, in the hubbub of family challenges, and adding to that my working for the first time outside the home, I misplaced the envelope of carrot seeds you sent. I got out a previous year’s envelope with leftover seeds hoping they’d still be good. … But no luck, they did not germinate.  My tomatoes did okay… we got a few small ones.  A few good cucumbers, and plenty of herbs.  And even one beautiful orange pumpkin from Tom’s pumpkin vine!  But no carrots. …

And I feel like the lesson this summer — from the garden and within the circle of our family — was “tend the soil.” And tend it we did, and still are, as we learn and grow together.

Alene” 

I say yes to that!!!!! We need to find ways to “tend the soil.”

At the Community Charter School of Cambridge (CCSC) this year we got a late start and did not plant the carrot seeds until early July and then there was the drought. But I rigged up a watering system where I would fill a thirty gallon trash can and wheel it out to the garden and pour bowls of water over the garden. Once I even drove down from Montreal, where my daughter Josie was living, for the express purpose of attending a meeting. The meeting was on Zoom and I did not need to drive. I consoled myself that it was okay I did not ask if I could join by Zoom because the carrots were worth the drive. I gave them water that day and the rewards from that watering and the summer’s labor of tending (thinning, weeding, and watering) came on November 29th and December 2nd when we celebrated Carrot Day at CCSC.

The photo on the left was taken August 2nd. The carrots have germinated but they are being covered by purslane. The middle photo is of the same garden bed four months later with the hands of the CCSC sixth graders. The carrots are growing among the larger Swiss Chard and the early Japanese Mustard but the purslane, even though it is a very good green in its own right, has all been weeded out. The third photo is of some of CCSC sixth graders washing the carrots for their classmates to eat.

I love the joy that comes out when students pull carrots from the ground. While my instructions are short, a product of having pulled carrots with students for 25+ years, they sure know how to listen. The 6th Graders Humanities Teacher told me that she had not seen two of the students this engaged all year. When I asked the moms’ of the students washing the carrots if I could include that picture in the blog one of the moms wrote back: “Hello Ted, _____ was so happy about this experience. He even sent me a photo and brought a carrot home for everyone to try it. He was so excited! He said, ‘I got this carrot from Ted’s garden and I got the biggest and sweetest carrot.’ He then said, ‘the whole family can try it.’ I have to say it was the most delicious carrot I have ever tried and I love carrots so this was a treat for me.”

That is the why of Carrot Day. There is immediate fun and there is also the possibility of life long change. Both are worthy and frost-kissed carrots really taste good.

We had frost in Hull before Thanksgiving and many members of my family were joining together in Baltimore to celebrate Thanksgiving. I pulled frost-kissed carrots from the ground the a few days before Thanksgiving and brought ten beautiful carrots to Baltimore for our family gathering. The day after Thanksgiving I asked everyone what was their favorite food at Thanksgiving. There were many answers and I was the only one of the group who said frost-kissed carrots from Hull but everyone loved them as you can tell from the family photos.

That is four generations of Hirsch’s going from my father at 94 to the two grandsons at 15 and 17 months. The middle two pictures are from the Hull’s last carrot harvest. They were pulled today on December 11th. The third carrot pictures shows all the work of farmers from the first cultivation of Carrots for their roots about 900 BCE. The skinny carrot is either a wild carrot that I did not weeded out as it looks so much like the scarlet Nantes or red cored Chantenay carrots that I planted or some return to the seed’s origins. At Katy’s suggestion I tried the wild carrot and it was not too bad. It was woody but not bitter and had some carrot flavor.

The third Carrot Day Celebration I was part of was here in Hull on Sunday December 4th. Four neighborhood kids and several adults who lived nearby came over. We pulled carrots. I first gathered the kids together to show them how to find a big carrot. Before I got too far in the explanation one of the older kids took over and explained to the others how to find a good one. They each pulled a carrot and we washed them in a pail of warm water. The kids went off to play but they did not drop their carrots but ate and played for the next half hour.

If you have not yet told me about your Carrot Days I would love to hear about it. Be well, take care, eat vegetables, and if you have the good fortune to have land build your soil and grow your food. If you don’t have that blessing build your community as that is all of our soil and our soul.

Ted

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