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Carrot Day is celebrated each year on April 4th and is the pinnacle for carrot lovers and growers around the world. During this time of isolation, as we respond to the Coronavirus pandemic, more and more of us are turning to our gardens for solace, as a way of gaining valuable fresh air, exercise and to grow food.

Amgueddfa Cymru National Museum of Wales has an array of gardens, from St Fagans’ formal pleasure gardens to the productive plots of the Rhyd-y-car Ironworkers terraced houses. The National Wool Museum has a garden dedicated to plants that produce natural dyes, The National Roman Museum in Caerleon has a dye and medicinal garden, while the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea has a community garden developed and managed by the GRAFT team. In celebration of Carrot Day, we’ve compiled a veritable potager of gardening wisdom, traditions and artefacts from our collection, to help inspire you to green up your fingers and put some seeds to earth.

Moonlighting in the Garden on Good Friday

Traditionally Good Friday has been considered an excellent day for planting potatoes. Temperatures are still generally cool, but the soil remains soft enough to cultivate. However, the primary reason is that the time of planting is perfectly aligned to the moon, the date for Easter always being set to fall on the first Sunday following the vernal or spring Equinox.

For millennia, gardeners have planted and cultivated in tune with the moon, based on the principle that just as the Moon’s gravitational pull causes tides to rise and fall, it also affects moisture in the soil. During the waxing moon (when the moon is growing towards full) is a time when sap flow is drawn upwards, so it’s great for sowing and transplanting flowering annuals, biennials, and grains - basically any short-lived plant that we want to harvest its leaves, seed, flowers or fruits. When the moon is waning, (i.e. decreasing in light from full moon to new moon) the sap flow is drawn down. This means that energy is focused towards the roots, which is more suited to cultivating root crops and perennials.

Potatoes, being a root crop, should therefore be planted during the waning moon. Good Friday ALWAYS falls after the first full moon of spring, and therefore is guaranteed to fall during this potent, potato planting period. Carrots, beetroot and other root vegetables fall into the same category, so as well as celebrating the carrot today, it’s also a great day to order some root vegetable seeds, ready for Good Friday planting.

Seed Fairs

Back in the day, the end of March would have been the time when Charter towns held seed fairs. Farmers and growers would bring their harvested seed to market to sell in exchange for other goods as well as money. Conwy in north Wales still holds a seed fair at the end of March. It was established by Royal Charter of Edward 1st more than 700 years ago and set for 26 March each year. It still holds to that date.

Here are a few gardening tools from our collection:

The familiar rake hasn’t changed its form much over the years.

Likewise this rather beautiful arrow headed weed hook is familiar enough.

But can you guess what this extraordinary tool might be for?

It’s actually a root grubber. Gardeners still have use for such tools today, but they look very different now.

This is a seed lip. It was filled with seeds, taken to the patch of land to be sewn, tucked under the arm and handfuls of seeds were then grasped in the hand and scattered.

Finally, so that we can celebrate the humble carrot in style on this International Carrot Day, National Wool Museum café cook, Olga James has kindly shared her delicious recipe for Carrot, Garlic and Thyme soup. Here it is. Enjoy!

 
  • 3 onions
  • L3 garlic cloves (crushed)
  • 3 good sized potatoes
  • 3Ib Carrots
  • Parsley, thyme
  • Oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 6pts veg stock (5 stock cubes)

Gently soften onion in oil with garlic, thyme and parsley. Chop and add the potatoes and fry further 5 mins, add the chopped carrots. Stir, add stock and boil until all veg is soft. Blend and taste add salt and pepper if necessary.

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