We are getting our first significant snowfall this weekend. Just a couple of days ago, we were in our south garden digging carrots! Here are three strategies you can use to maximize your carrot harvest.
The first strategy is simple-- leave them in the ground as long as you can. When there is a threat of a deep freeze in the fall we literally tip the carrot tops over to one side and cover the row with a thick layer of hay mulch. That way the carrots can stay in the ground as long as possible to sweeten up and give us garden fresh carrots into the late fall and early winter.
As long as we can still get a pitchfork into the ground and the tops of the carrots haven’t frozen, we'll dig them as needed to fill our crisper drawers. This reduces the pressure on our supply of carrots in long term storage.
The second strategy is to store them coming right out of the ground and in the ground-- in a root cellar. I have been promising I'd show you our root cellar-- see it here. One thing though-- we do a little prep work on the carrots before bagging them up to make sure they won't rot.
Any green leaf material that goes in the bag with your carrot means the possibility of rot. It's so important to trim the root and cut the greens away from the carrot top before bagging. Using a sharp knife slice upwards at about a 50° angle 4-5 times around the top, removing all of the leaf material. For those of you who are visual, watch our video of the process here.
Don't wash the carrots and simply bag them in an aerated plastic bag-- punching 1/4 inch holes with a paper punch so the carrots can breath. Then store them in a root cellar. This takes advantage of the earth’s perfect conditions, helping to keep your root crops at the optimal temperature and humidity for the long run.
On cold nights during the fall of the year, we open up the root cellar to cool it down and ready it for our root crops. We strive to take the temperature down to at least below 45°F. Root crops store best just above freezing temps between 33-45°F with about 98% humidity.
We stack the beet and carrot bags on a shelf in the root cellar. Below the shelf we have a couple of barrels for storing potatoes. We also store potatoes in a cold room in the basement of the farmhouse, so we don’t have to access the barrels in the root cellar until late spring.
The humidity in the root cellar is near 100%! So we cover both the shelves and the barrels with a sheet of plastic to prevent water from collecting on surfaces and running onto the bags or into the barrels.
Finally, once we've stored what we need in our root cellar, we prepare carrots for storage in a refrigerator without a defrost cycle. This is a important point-- because the defrost cycle will literally dehydrate carrots in storage.
We have a refrigerator in the basement of the farmhouse dedicated to storing roots crops for easy access. It doesn't have a defrost cycle and keeps carrots beautifully all winter long.
To prepare the carrots after digging, we spray most of the dirt off over a screen. Then we dunk 'em and scrub 'em, rinse with clean water, cut the tops off, lay 'em out to dry off, and then bag 'em for the frig in the same aerated bags we use for the root cellar.
You can watch our video of the whole process here! We hope your carrot harvest was successful and that you have lots of carrots in storage to take you through the winter. Enjoy!
Our best to you,
Theresa & Dan