Written by Dale Richardson - Updated: June 23, 2023
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Do you want to grow really long carrots? Manpukuji carrots are easy to cultivate and can reach 60cm to 90cm (24-36 inches) long. Let's learn how to grow this ancient Japanese carrot in the home garden.
To grow Manpukuji carrots, work the bed deeply so the roots have plenty of space to grow. They do well with added compost but don't need extra fertilizer. Sow the seeds close together for a uniform germination, and thin seedlings to 2.5cm to 5cm (1-2 inches) apart. Sow in early spring and harvest in late fall or early winter after a few hard frosts. Make sure to provide consistent moisture throughout the entire growing season to ensure long, delicious vegetables at harvest.
Growing a Manpukuji carrot is similar to growing any garden carrot. However, there are a few special points to consider to accommodate the extra-long carrot. Here are the things to know to grow a great Manpukuji carrot.
The Manpukuji carrot has been cultivated in Japan for around 400 years. It almost disappeared completely in the 1950s and 60s, but many heirloom seed companies are bringing it back from near extinction. The carrots have been known to reach 90cm (3ft) in length, but 60cm (2ft) is more common in the backyard garden. Even in northern climates with short growing seasons, many Manpukuji carrots will grow to 30cm (1ft).
Whatever the length, these carrots have a superb, sweet flavour and are easy to grow.
Because of their impressive size, Manpukuji carrots need a deep, loose bed to properly grow. Compacted or heavy soil will stunt the growth of the roots. Also, a heavy clay soil will make carrots very hard to harvest, and you risk snapping them off in the ground. A broadfork is a beneficial tool to loosen the ground to an adequate depth without disturbing the soil structure. Make sure the soil is free from rocks and debris which can twist and warp the carrots. Not only will you lose the elegance of a long, straight carrot, but it will be very difficult come harvest time if the roots are bent and twisted.
Image by Mytho88
Work the soil as deep as you can. Manpukuji carrots do very well in a raised bed with no bottom. The raised beds add soil depth that helps the roots grow their full length. Any height of raised bed will help the roots grow long and straight, but a 45cm (18inch) high raised bed will really help if you expect to produce long taproots.
Manpukuji carrots do not require any more soil amendments than other varieties. Too much of any fertilizer can make the carrots hairy and woody. A healthy mix of compost in the soil is all that is required.
Manpukuji carrots do best when direct-sown, as their roots are delicate and can quickly outgrow most pots. If you want to start your Manpukuji carrots indoors, try growing them in empty toilet paper tubes.
To plant directly into your garden, sow the seeds fairly close for a uniform dispersion a few weeks before the last frost. Plant the rows 30cm (1ft) apart. Keep the seedbed well watered as carrot seeds die easily if they dry out. Even though Manpukuji carrots are long, they are fairly narrow so they can be grown quite close together. Once the seeds germinate in 2 to 3 weeks, thin them to about 2.5cm to 5cm (1-2 inches) apart.
Now it is time for weeding and watering. The seedlings will be easily chocked out by competing weeds so make sure to keep the rows weed-free. Sowing fast germinating radish seeds with the carrots can help you locate the rows for a thorough weeding before the carrots have emerged.
Manpukuji Carrots are made up of around 90% water, so they require consistent watering. An average of 2.5cm (1inch) a week is sufficient for good growth.
Image by Carmen Edenhofer
Manpukuji carrots can reach impressive sizes when the growing season is long enough, and they can stay in the ground. Leave them in the ground as long as possible. They get sweeter after a frost through a process called chill sweetening, which is where the cold converts starch back into sugars.
In temperate climates, Manpukuji carrots can be left in the ground into winter with proper protection. They are cold hardy and overwinter will in many zones.
There is nothing so frustrating as snapping a carrot off in the ground while pulling, and this is even more true with Manpukuji carrots. To harvest your Manpukuji carrots, insert a shovel or garden fork beside the row to loosen the soil. Then the long carrots can be pulled without breaking.
Once harvested, Manpukuji carrots store well through the winter. Apart from their impressive size and flavour, good storage is one of the reasons these carrots were so popular in ancient Japan.
Manpukuji carrots are a great addition to the home garden. They are easy to grow, fun to harvest with a good flavour, and store well. This ancient variety was nearly lost as agriculture made the rush to mass-produce smaller carrots for the international market. Nowadays, the seeds are usually only available through organizations that save heirloom seeds . By growing Manpukuji carrots in our self-sufficient gardens, we are growing our own food while preserving a piece of ancient history.
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