Each terroir has its specialties, and Audomarois is no exception with its beers, spirits, cheeses and vegetables. Among these, the carrot of Tilques has indeed found its place in the taste heritage of the region. Popular during the first half of the 70th century, it became increasingly rare on the stalls from the XNUMXs onwards. The modernization of agriculture and the advent of monoculture had a lot to do with it. Then, little by little, this big carrot, also nicknamed the "giant of Tilques", regained its letters of nobility. It is now certified by the Regional Natural Park of Caps et Marais d'Opale.

Orange, yellow and purple standard carrots – Ilonaf/Pixabay

The story of the carrot

The origins of the carrot are very distant, both temporally speaking and geographically. Indeed, the first carrots would have grown on the territory of present-day Afghanistan. Stunky in their wild beginnings and sour on the palate, they will fatten and improve when grown in fertile soils and in a temperate climate.

A priori known for millennia by man, the carrot will however be slow to make its appearance in vegetable gardens. We will see it arrive here in the XNUMXth century under Charlemagne, but this vegetable did not yet have the face that we know: it displayed a pale color, a fibrous flesh and a rather hard skin. As a result, it never sat on the best tables. It could be used to feed the animals or the less fortunate at most. Only its tops remained universally appreciated as an aromatic plant.

Later, with the opening of the Silk Roads, the purple carrot from Asia arrived in our gardens, now also including yellow, reddish, blackish carrots… But no orange carrots! It will be necessary to wait for the XVIth century for that. Indeed, our orange carrots come from a cross between the yellow and red varieties. A work of Dutch gardeners wishing to show their allegiance to William 1er of Orange Nassau. As a result, the orange carrot will take precedence over all the other varieties while damning the pawn to many other vegetables. It is indeed in the top 5 of sales in the world!

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Carrots from Tilques – Photo: Philippe Hudelle

Tilques carrot

The portrait of his family tree having been painted, let's return to our good old "Giant of Tilques". Appearing in Audomarois at the end of the 20th century, this rustic carrot has unusual characteristics. As its nickname suggests, it stands out with regard to its size, on average 30 to XNUMX cm long. Its beautiful conical shape also does not go unnoticed. It owes it to its genetic heritage, but also to the good, rich, peat and sandy soil of the western marsh. This well-drained, airy, stone-free soil allows this root vegetable to grow evenly without splitting.

Cooking the Tilques carrot

As for the cuisine, let's specify that its tender, sweet and tasty flesh is more appreciated cooked than raw and is perfect for small winter dishes simmering on the fire, like mode beef or pot au feu.

It is good for the healt!

On the health side, our tilquoise has all the qualities of its congeners: it is packed with vitamins, antioxidants and many other excellent nutrients for health such as carotene which improves the complexion. Urban legends also attribute various medicinal properties to it: improvement of eyesight, beneficial effects on character… However, no clinical study corroborates these old assertions.

Growing the Tilques carrot

Finally, on the garden side, the Tilques carrot is grown quite easily. The seeds are planted during the first half of May, in rows, spaced out in order to anticipate the growth of the plants. The carrot multiplies easily, it is nevertheless necessary to come back a little later in the season to clear up the lines. If the carrots step on each other, their growth is of course compromised! Once developed, the carrot plot must be hoeed. One way to prevent the proliferation of weeds, protect the plant and limit watering.

carrot harvest
Harvesting the Tilques carrot – Photo: Philippe Hudelle

Harvest and storage

From mid-September to the end of October extends the period of harvesting by uprooting. The carrots are then traditionally kept in a silo. To do this, we pile the carrots still full of soil on heaps less than a meter high, which we then cover with tops, straw, then soil. This method preserves the carrots from cold, rotting and regrowth. It is thus possible to sell them from October to April. Some market gardeners use other more modern methods such as storage in boxes in refrigerated buildings.

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