Why carrots braid themselves

Just before leaving on our annual mother-daughter trip to Vashon Island, I spotted a photo of three carrots braided together on Forest Garden Farm's Instagram feed. Amused, I showed my local friend, our host, the post. Well, when we arrived, she had a surprise for us—she had purchased this special twisted root vegetable trio from the farmer!

That got me to wondering, how does this even happen? I grew up in a rural area and my grandfather farmed but I'm far removed from that knowledge now. So, I asked Grandpa Google for the info. This is what I learned, as quoted from North Dakota's The Dickinson Press:

Here's what causes carrots to grow forked and twisted, instead of straight and uniform: Carrot growth is very dependent on deeply prepared, uniform soil texture, free of stones and heavy clay. When carrots meet an obstacle in the ground, they search for the easiest route around or downward. If they meet a stone or hard soil lump, they become forked, or divert their growth sideways, moving around the obstacle. Closely spaced carrots will sometimes twist around each other, as you've found, as they apparently find it easier to grow downward through soil in a group effort.

Makes sense! I guess if you want to grow braided carrots, make sure to space them too close together and add some stones (?).

The fate of the braided carrot from Vashon? Well, just talked to my friend and she's going to, gulp, slice it up "across all units" for a salad tonight.

photo by Rusty Blazenhoff