I like to try new varieties and compare them to old favorites. A number of bloggers have mentioned Sugarsnax carrots so I tried them this year even though I remembered reading that Sugarsnax do not do well in the Northeast. Now I know what that statement means.
I grow carrots in my plot at the Vassar Farm community gardens. Although conditions are far from ideal, with the right varieties I can grow a good carrot. The soil is very slippery when wet, probably a clay and silt mix. Although heavy, the soil is good for carrots because it holds the moisture and it is nearly rock free. I feed the soil by mulching heavily with leaves every year. I loosen the soil deeply with a garden fork before planting and never walk on the beds so the soil stays loose. The pH is around 7.0. The garden gets full sun – from sunrise to sunset.
This garden area has been under continuous cultivation since the Civil War so it has every disease and pest that can survive in Poughkeepsie, NY, including carrot foliage diseases. I’ve found the carrot varieties that grow best are resistant to Alternaria and Cercospora.
Seed catalogs describe Sugarsnax carrots in glowing terms: tender and sweet with smooth, uniform, 9″ tapered roots and strong tops resistant to Alternaria, Cercospora, and Pythium diseases. Maturity is 68 days.
I planted Sugarsnax 4/30/2013. Based on my experience with varieties such as Yaya and Bolero, I expected to eat good-sized thinnings in early July and full-sized carrots in mid-July. That is not what happened. Three months after planting most Sugarsnax carrots were still less than an ounce. Very disappointing.
In contrast, I planted Yaya May 20, three weeks after Sugarsnax, and in late July harvested carrot carrots around 1.5 ounces. They will continue to grow and get heavier.
In color, Yaya is a lighter orange than Sugarsnax.
Sugarsnax falls short in several other ways.
- My Sugarsnax carrots are tough, even (or perhaps especially) the pencil thin carrots I pulled in early July before the hot weather. My molars were in bad shape (two missing on one side and a temporary crown on the other side) and eating a Sugarsnax caused a great deal of pain as it jammed between the temporary crown and adjacent teeth. Yaya carrots are tender enough to eat without getting stuck.
- My Sugarsnax carrots have a strong sharp carroty flavor with no sweetness. Yaya lacks the sharpness and is a lot sweeter.
- My Sugarsnax roots are not smooth, instead they are ‘hairy’ with lots of rootlets. I’ve pulled a few 9″ roots, but most roots have a kink and a fork at 4-5″. Yaya roots are smoother and plumper and don’t fork.
- As they age (of course, I’ve left them in the ground too long, hoping they will get bigger) some Sugarsnax are starting to ‘unwrap’, with the outer layer splitting the long way and separating from the core.
On the positive side Sugarsnax tops are very strong and healthy with no signs of disease. The seed also germinated quite well. This does not make up for the poor eating experience.
That 11″ Sugarsnax is the biggest and best looking of the harvest. I shared it with my husband. It was a bit more tender than the earlier carrots but the flavor was harsh and unpleasant. But note: the other two Sugarsnax from the same planting are still tiny after 4 months. The Yaya carrots from the May 20 planting are starting to get oversized but are still tender and sweet. The Bolero thinnings are from plantings made July 1-5 and are the size I expect for a ‘good-sized thinning’.
I’ve found the best use for these Sugarsnax carrots is in cooking: as a natural rack under a roast, or as the carrot you add and later throw away when making broth. With the Sugarsnax being so small they are getting used quickly because it takes several carrots to do anything and I’ll be happy when they are gone. Good riddance!
BTW the temporary crown has been replaced by a much better fitting permanent crow so I can now chew any carrot – even Sugarsnax.