Sand Carrots (Carotte de Créances or Carotte de Sable) are France’s best loved carrot. They have a superb, old fashioned flavour and a vibrant, deep orange colour.
The area has a tradition of carrot growing going back to the 19th Century and was granted AOC status in 1960. This means that Sand Carrots can only be grown in and around eight villages close to the Créances basin which is on the west coast of the Contentin peninsula in Normandy (that’s the one with Cherbourg at the top).
The carrots are grown close to the sea in long, narrow fields (strips really) called mielles. The very sandy soil has been fertilized with seaweed for generations making it rich in iodine and sulphur.
The most widely grown carrot is the Rouge de Caretan, a heritage variety which is virtually coreless and very tasty indeed.
The carrots are stored in the ground, often protected by a layer of straw, and only lifted when needed for market. They are always sold unwashed which helps preserve flavour.
There is an annual festival (Fête de la Carotte) held in Créances on the second Saturday in August. La Confrérie Des Mouôgeous d'Carottes de Créances (The Brotherhood of Créances Carrot Eaters) parade through the town in their ceremonial robes with the best of that year’s crop. Then there is much speech making and the awarding of carrot related gongs. Given the first festival wasn’t until 1990 it all seems about as authentic as a ploughman’s lunch, the carrots however are most certainly the real thing.
Heritage carrots are old fashioned varieties, usually more than fifty years old, whose time has come again. Ours are grown in Finistère in the west of Brittany. We stock three types, white, yellow and purple with an orange core. All of them have a particularly intense flavour and look deeply impressive on the plate.
We are indebted to the World Carrot Museum for giving us permission to use some of their photographs and for providing so much information about the Fête de la Carotte. We thoroughly recommend you visit their splendid site at carrotmuseum.co.uk