Back in 2009, I set out to breed a new carrot variety out of the ashes of the Oxheart carrot, for which I could only find poor quality seed. Oxheart is a good variety for growing in hard soils, as it is short and stout. Unfortunately, it seems to have been grown by few people in recent decades and the sources of seed that I was able to find had evidence of in-breeding depression in some cases and crossing in others. The result was a jumble, with less than 20% large, good quality Oxheart type carrots and a lot of smaller, off-type carrots.
So, I grew out and selected the best and then crossed in two other varieties that we grow: St. Valery and Parisian Market, plus a small amount of a variable orange carrot that we started from a mix several years back. St. Valery is too large, but has the right shape, right maturity, and good flavor. Parisian Market is a small, stubby carrot. Between the two, I hoped to get a good mix of different genetics from which to select.
We’re calling this carrot Ox Cart, a clear pointer back to its heritage. Even though the goal is to produce a carrot as much like Oxheart as possible, it will be genetically distinct, so we have to give it a new name.
We’ve now gotten to year four, the F3 generation, and I had hoped to have a reasonably consistent harvest this year, but it is clear that we are probably still several years from that, although we’re making progress.
Here is a sample:
|Ox Cart F3: No cracking, but still a lot of variability|
The traits that we are selecting for fall in the middle of the picture. Toward the left we have probably too much St. Valery with longer form (although we’ve mostly gotten the long carrots out this year) and sloping shoulders. Toward the right, we have stubbier carrots that favor Parisian Market. In the Middle, we have stout carrots with broad shoulders. We want them more triangular and less cylindrical, so that rules out some of the middle carrots as well.
Cracking appeared in the first year and has persisted until now. Unfortunately, the cracking appears mostly in the carrots that have the form that we want, which means that we’re having to eliminate a lot of carrots that otherwise look very good.
|A monster carrot, but a bit too monstrous for this project|
This is a nice big carrot, but bigger than we want for this project.
This one is just about perfect. Broad shoulders, strongly triangular, short, clean, and free of cracking. Hopefully a couple more years of selection will yield a crop that looks mostly like this.