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Editor’s Note: The Quackers are three awesome ducks — Rusty, Richard and Sydney — from the canals of Venice who are on a mission to educate the community about the dangers of global warming and the importance of practicing sustainability, all while surfing the most gnarly waves possible.

When it comes to gardening, Richard is “The Man.” He knows exactly what to plant for each season, and usually comes away with a big harvest. Richard supplies the knowledge, we supply the labor. For this fall’s planting he chose cabbage, broccoli, beets, bok choy, onions, garlic, salad greens and of course his favorite, carrots.

Richard loves carrots. Recently he discovered “rainbow carrots.” He is absolutely obsessed with them. Having only known orange carrots, he became dazzled by the purple, red, white and yellow rainbow carrots.

 Since his discovery, he can be found continuously munching on a multi-colored palette of carrot sticks. Rusty and I understand his enthusiasm for his new find, however, we do think he is taking it a bit too far when he lovingly looks at the carrot sticks and says, “Where have you beauties been all my life?” We know people talk to plants but give us a break. He is talking to carrot sticks. It’s beginning to creep us out.

Richard assumed rainbow carrots were a new variety. To his surprise he learned that multi-hued carrots had been around for a very long time. Continuing his research he found that carrots originated in what is now present day Afghanistan about 5,000 years ago and that they were purple or yellow, not the orange we have always known! As time passed Mother Nature stepped in and from those original colors produced mutants and natural hybrids by crossing both cultivated and wild varieties. It is believed that purple carrots were taken westward and that yellow mutants and wild forms crossed to produce the orange we are familiar with.

Now completely fascinated, Richard followed the cultivated carrot from Afghanistan, Iran and northern Arabia in its purple and yellow form to Syria and North Africa where some time in the 1000’s the color red also appeared. In the 1100’s Spain had purple and yellow. Italy and China, in the 1200’s, had purple and red. In about the 1300’s France, Germany and the Netherlands had red, yellow and white. England in the 1400’s had red and white while in Northern Europe orange appeared along with yellow and red. In the 1600’s Japan had purple and yellow while North America had orange and white. In the 1700’s orange and red appeared in Japan. Richard couldn’t stop thinking about what he had learned.

The next morning Richard excitedly told us about the dream he had. In the dream, he planted a patch of rainbow carrots and it was time for harvest. He began the harvest and found not only the rainbow carrots he expected but also a white carrot with alternating stripes of purple and orange.  Stunned, he pulled another carrot and found a yellow one with red dots. Each pull yielded a different color combination and pattern. Finally, he pulled an orange one with purple dots and took a bite.  Not only was it a beautiful carrot, it was also the sweetest and most tender he had ever tasted.  Still tasting the sweetness, he opened his eyes and knew he must try to grow “dream carrots.”

Immediately after breakfast we were dispatched to the garden with instructions to remove all rocks and clods of dirt for a foot down to prepare for the carrots. He wanted them to grow smooth and straight. Next we sprinkled wood ashes over the soil. Carrots need their potassium. Richard read that onions and chives were good garden companions for carrots and that sage would enhance their growth, so in the ground they went. 

Carefully we sowed the carrot seeds and covered them lightly with a fine layer of compost. We took care to water them evenly and well. Later we would thin them to prevent crowding. 

We had done our best. We hoped that with luck and natural selection we would be harvesting Richard’s “dream carrots” in about 70 days.

 Like machines, we dug, raked and hoed, putting in the rest of the garden in record time. Then it was time to catch a wave.

The three of us paddled out letting the water cool us and wash the dirt of the day away.

Rusty and I caught a few waves but after a hard day’s work our muscles were protesting. We called it a day and sat on shore watching Richard ride wave after wave.

Rusty noticed it first. He said, “Richard has an orange glow about him. Look Sidney! His feet, legs and bill are orange. Do you think it’s from the sunset?”

It wasn’t the sunset. I stared in disbelief. Richard was glowing orange. Was he ill? The way he rode those waves I knew he was not sick. Then it hit me. The carrots! He’d been eating so many carrots he had actually turned orange. I guess you really are what you eat!

Phyllis and the Quackers can be reached at phyllis@phyllischavez.com

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