Carrots do have seeds. Carrot plants are biennial meaning they need two years to complete their life cycle. In their second year carrot plants will produce flowers and once pollinated flowers will produce seeds. Once carrot plant will produce around 1,000 seeds.
Botanically speaking, carrots produce fruits call schizocarps that house the seeds. Another example of a schizocarp we are all more familiar with is the winged “helicopter” that falls slowly spinning from maple trees.
Carrots are part of the family called Umbelliferae that includes coriander, dill, parsley, and cumin. The family gets its name for the flower clusters called umbels that look like umbrellas. Almost all the plants in this family are good companion plants whose flowers provide nectar for ladybugs and predatory flies.
One carrot plant can produce 10,000 carrot seeds. Carrot seeds are tiny and 1 ounce of carrot seeds contains about 23,000 seeds. Carrot seeds can last for seven years with good germination rates if kept with in storage with a moisture content around 9%.
Where Do Carrot Seeds Come From?
Carrot seed for commercial carrot grows come from seed production fields, mostly from Oregon. In 2004 85% of hybrid seeds, what almost all commercial growers use, came from Oregon. Hybrid seed fields are produced by growing two parent varieties in the fields. One variety that is male sterile will have four rows and the other variety that has viable male pollen will be grown in two rows.
Farmers that grow crops for carrot seed do so in two ways. The first way is “seed-to-seed” where a carrot crop is planted and allowed to overwinter and complete its two year life cycle in the ground. This method results in a lot of losses in the field as well as weirdly shaped roots not being culled after the first year.
The second method is “root-to-seed”. In this method carrot crops are harvested when they normally would be usually in the fall. Foliage growth on top of the carrot is trimmed down to an inch or two and misshapen carrots are discarded. Then carrots are dried and placed in paper bags with wood shavings to absorb moisture and then the paper bags sealed in plastic bags and placed in a refrigerated area. When the spring comes farmers plant these root carrots at the same time they would plant their carrot seed but these roots are in their second year of growth and ready to produce flowers and seeds.
Most farmers in Oregon use the seed-to-seed method with carrots being planted in August and pollination taking place the following July and harvesting of carrot seeds in September. Carrot seed fields are planted at least a mile apart in order to prevent cross pollination of other varieties being grown in the area.
Around 10,000 bee colonies are used in Jefferson County, Oregon where the majority of carrot seed fields are. Carrot flowers produce dark and strongly flavored honey that isn’t desirable as honey used in the kitchen.
For more information about where carrot seeds come from and the process here’s an article by the Department of Horticulture of the University of Wisconsin and an article about the bees involvement in the process.
Can You Grow a Carrot From a Carrot?
A carrot plant will grow from the top of a carrot if replanted or grown in water hydroponically. The plant will produce roots that come out of the sides and bottom of the tops of the carrots but the taproot that is the carrot will not grow back.
The foliage will grow from the top of the carrot and it will produce flowers and seeds. The purpose of the taproot is to provide energy in the form of sugar to the plant giving it what it needs to produce flowers and seeds. It might be that growing the carrot plant from the top of carrots results in less flowers and seeds produced.
How Many Carrots Grow From One Seed?
One carrot will grow from one seed. Carrots do not grow in bunches. There are multiple stems that come out of the top of each carrot but each carrot plant has one taproot, the carrot, where it stores energy during its vegetative growth that it then uses to produce flowers and seeds in its second year of life.
How Do Carrots Reproduce?
Carrots reproduce by seed. They produce flowers in their second year of life that once pollinated become seeds. The seeds are very light and spread easily by the wind. The seeds are edible even by humans. Birds that eat the seeds spread them far and wide as they pass through their digestive tract.
How to Harvest Carrot Seeds
Collecting your own carrot seeds allows you to have a ton of seeds of a variety of your choosing. The flowers will appear at the tips and branches off of stalks. It doesn’t take many carrot plants to get a huge amount of seeds somewhere from 1,000-10,000 seeds per plant. So just by leaving a few plants in the ground to overwinter you can get a good amount of seeds the next year.
After flowers are pollinated they will begin to dry up and turn brown. These seeds are mature. The umbels will dry and mature at different times on the same plant. Use a tool and cut the dry umbels off as they mature and collect them in a bag.
Bring the dry umbel to a flat work surface and get a plate or newspaper to collect the umbels off the flower heads. Just take the flower heads and brush the seeds off of the flower head and onto your collecting surface.
Next is to remove the outer shell from the seeds. You can rub the seeds together in your hands and see the smaller seeds separate from the outer shell. At this point we need to separate the shells and other chaff from the seeds. Strainers of varying sizes can be used or the wind from a fan. To use a fan place it a good distance away so that there’s just a small breeze. Take a mixture of seeds and chaff in one hand and let it fall to a collecting bin. The chaff will blow away in the wind and the seeds will fall into the bin.
How to Store Carrot Seeds
Give carrot seeds 3-5 days indoors and separated from the chaff to completely air dry. Put the carrot seeds in envelopes and in the refrigerator. Most refrigerators keep a temperature around 40 degrees which is exactly the temperature we want for seed storage. If food in your refrigerator freezes solid the temperature is 32 degrees or lower and that is too low for good seed storage. Seeds stored this way will last up to 7 years.
To learn more about the flower and seeding parts of the carrot plant life cycle check out “Carrot Plant Flowers“.