At Home With Nature

In Praise of Bolted Carrots

There’s nothing delightful about carrot roots that have bolted. Yet, I’m here to sing their praises.

Carrots are biennials, and are supposed to wait until year two to produce flowers. When they bolt in year one, instead of sending their energy into root production, that energy gets moved into reproduction, aka flowering, leaving the root with less sugar, and more fibers.

However, if you draw your attention away from the unpalatable, fibrous root that lurks beneath the soil and focus instead on the splendid flowers that rise up from the plants, there is pleasure to be found in the scores of pollinators they attract.

Carrot inflorescence prior to blooming.

A few years ago, my husband Chad and I planted some carrot seeds that bolted a bit early, dropped their seeds among our rows, and keep popping up in our garden as volunteers ever since.

At first we wondered whether we should pull them up, thinking they were taking up valuable garden real estate.

Carrot seeds maturing.

Now when Chad asks me whether these volunteers should stay or go, I don’t have to think twice – my answer is a definite, let them stay!

Even though I find the flowers pretty – especially those that have pink blooms, a sign of a purple-rooted variety – more importantly, they attract droves of beneficial insects.

The pollinators love, love, love carrot blooms. There are so many different species of insects on these flowers that I am often tempted to try to snap some photos of them, though I can never really seem to capture the full effect of how popular these blooms are.

Paper wasp (Poliste).

I love that our garden is an oasis of food and shelter for insects, which are on the decline on a global level.


I think this selection of photos shows at least a dozen different garden denizens – mostly wasps. I managed to figure out names for a few of them – some with the help of iNaturalist, but haven’t identified most yet.


One of the reasons I try to ID these insects is that you don’t think about what you don’t recognize.

Mud dauber wasp.

Perhaps some people would look at these carrot flowers and see just a bunch of bugs. I look at them and see individual species, each of them with a story. Some are invasive, some are native. I think they have the right to share our space, and am happy that our garden provides food for them.


When I observe these insects, I also see members of our garden team. These wasps are helping to keep our garden eco-system in check, preventing pest populations from getting out of hand. It’s a selfish motivation, sure, but not my only one.


I also have an emotional connection to these little neighbors of ours. When I see types of wasps I recognize year after year, it’s like seeing old friends.

And while I have been stung by wasps a few times since moving to live on the farm, I’ve never been stung in the garden, even while holding my camera within inches of these pollinators. (For the most part, they just ignore me and my camera.)

Bumble bee (maybe Nevada bumble bee).

While wasps seem to be the most popular guests at the bolted carrot buffet, I also see bumble bees, flies, and other types of bees.


Some of them are nice enough to pose for me.


Knowing that we are helping them and they are helping us, makes my time watching pollinators very therapeutic, and this kind of therapy is something I’m in need of.

I have severe food sensitivities caused by gut dysbiosis, so food (and gardening) has become something quite complicated for me, fraught with a lot of difficulties and frustration. Growing food not just for myself and my husband, but also for our populations of local insects allows gardening to remain something positive for me.

And when you are suffering, anything you can do to refocus your attention on something besides your own problems is a relief.

Hump backed bee wolf.

So while most gardeners dread bolted carrots, I actually celebrate them!

We do have carrots growing that we can harvest too. There’s plenty of room in our garden for growing food for us and food to share with wasps, bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.

Monarch and wasp.

And as fall settles in and the growing season comes to a close, the carrot flowers are still there, providing some late forage for these creatures, as well as immeasurable pleasure and nature therapy to me.

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