Monday, January 24, 2011

Carrots- A Permaculture Teaching Tool

Last summer I was asked to give a presentation about permaculture to the staff at Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta. I wanted to illustrate to them that if they were to teach all their staff, dishwashers, cooks, wait staff, to apply permaculture thinking to their respective tasks every day the business would benefit and they would be making a larger contribution to the greater good. After all, the goals of permaculture are to care for the land, care for the people and ensure everyone has her fair share of nature's abundance. I used the role of the prep cook as an example as follows:

Let's say that the restaurant normally sources carrots from Rabbit Haven Farm where they grow the carrot variety Red Core Chantenay. Red Core Chantenay is a short very pointed carrot. One day Rabbit Haven was out of carrots so the chef ordered carrots from Foggy River Farm where they grow the Bolero variety which is a long cylindrical carrot. When the prep cook diced the Bolero carrots she observed that she got more perfectly shaped carrot cubes with less waste per pound from them than she did from the carrots from Rabbit Haven and it took less time to prep them too. Applying Holmgren's permaculture principle, observe and interact, she said "hey Chef, we should start buying carrots from Foggy River all the time. We can save money and time!" Another permaculture principle comes into thinking process: obtain a yield. The chef says "thanks for sharing that with me. We will start doing that." The Chef eats some of the carrots and notices how sweet they are so he comes up with a new recipe to showcase their sweetness. He is applying the principles of creatively responding to change and applying self-regulation and accepting feedback.

You can see from this example that permaculture thinking can be of benefit in many situations beyond growing food, fiber and craft materials. It is applicable to business, government, and educational systems as well.

We use permaculture thinking to make decisions about the crops we grow. We grow both Red Core Chantenay and Bolero carrots. We have a section in the garden where the soil is a nice deep sandy loam, perfect for growing the longer Bolero carrots. When we rotate carrots to beds with more clay content we switch to the Red Core Chantenay which produce well in the heavier soil. The Red Core Chantenay is an heirloom open pollinated variety sow we save seeds from it.

Carrots are biennial which means they do not flower until the 2nd year after planting. They go through a process called vernalization. Cold temperatures in the winter act as a trigger to turn on the desire to flower in the spring and produce seed. Carrots planted in spring will flower a year later. Fall-planted carrots will begin to flower the following spring. This usually happens here in mid-April to early May depending on the temperature. It is important to keep your eye on them so you will observe when this change starts to take place. When the flower stalk begins to appear you need to pull up all of the carrots and store them in the refrigerator where they will keep for several months. As the flower begins to form the plant extracts the sugars from the roots to have energy to form seeds. The roots quickly become woody and inedible.

We grow carrots in spring and fall so we will have their deliciousness and nutritiousness all year round.

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