Seed Saving from Carrots
Carrots are insect pollinated.
Carrots flower in their second year of growth and seeds can be collected after flowering.
In areas with mild winters, carrots can be left in the ground, mulching heavily to protect from frost. The foliage will die back but will then re-sprout and start to flower in the spring.
In colder areas, dig up your carrots in the autumn, and select the best coloured and shaped roots. Twist off the foliage, and store the roots in a box of dry sand in a frost free place, making sure that they don’t touch each other. In spring, replant the roots, and they will re-sprout and flower.
Carrots grow into big plants and need to be isolated from other flowering carrot varieties by at least 500m. They will also cross with wild carrot, giving thin white useless roots. Barriers such as houses and hedges disrupt insect flight paths so you don’t necessarily need to eliminate all wild carrot but watch out for any white roots in subsequent generations and get rid of them.
To harvest your seed, remove flowerheads as they start to turn brown and dry. Dry the seed heads further inside, and then rub them between your hands or in a sieve to separate them. You will notice that the seeds have a ‘beard’ which is removed in commercial seed to make them easier to pack. There is no need to get the seed completely clean – just sow slightly more thickly to allow for the chaff mixed in.
You can watch this detailed video if you are thinking about seed-saving from carrots.
Carrot seed is relatively short lived, but if it is stored somewhere cool and dry, it should give good germination for three years.
NOTE: To maintain a carrot variety effectively, you need to save seed from at least 40 good roots to maintain genetic diversity. If you have too small a genetic pool, you will end up with small, poor quality roots in a very few generations.