I went with St. Valery and Dragon carrots this year. Loved them both.
When To Harvest Carrots
Usually on the seed pack it will tell you something like “65-70 days to harvest” or “90 days to maturity”. It’s important that you mark down on a calendar when you planted the seeds, so that you can have a general idea when they should be ready to pick. According to my notes, it was exactly 13 weeks from seed to harvest for me.
You can also tell if a carrot is ready to be harvested by brushing the dirt back a little to see how big around the root is. Of course you can always eat them before they’re fully mature, as a baby carrot.
How To Harvest Carrots
It really isn’t rocket science. Just grab the plant as close to the base of the stem as possible, and pull up, wiggling back and forth as you pull. Sometimes if the root is stubborn, the stem of the carrot will break off in your hand. If this happens, you’ll have to gently dig into the soil to retrieve the rest. If you have a lot of them breaking off, you can use a pitch fork to loosen the soil and uproot the remaining carrots. Just be careful not to damage them if you want to store them.
Here was one of the Dragon carrots from Lehmans. These did really well also. The color is gorgeous.
How To Store Carrots
There are a few ways you can store fresh carrots, if you don’t want to can them, dehydrate them, or freeze them. If you have a basement or root cellar, you can keep carrots for months by layering them in a box with damp sand, sawdust, or peat moss. Carrots will stay crisp in the fridge for a few weeks if you have a crisper drawer. I’ve had some success with wrapping fresh carrots in damp paper towels and storing them in a ziploc bag in the fridge. If you have a Fall harvest, carrots can be stored right in the garden bed throughout the winter if you cover them with a thick layer of mulch to protect them from freezing. You can even dig a hole in the ground and have a food cache like farmers back in the day used to do; they would put root crops in a deep pit, insulated with straw, leaves, or sand, and cover it with a wooden lid or something to keep critters out.
Whichever method you choose to try, there are a couple of things you definitely want to do to keep the carrots from going limp during storage:
Do not wash the carrots. Gently brush the dirt off of the roots before storage, and wait until you’re ready to cook them before you wash them off.
Cut the green stems off. Otherwise, they will continue to sap nutrients out of the roots and the carrots will get rubbery.
The Storage Experiment
I’ve read about many ways to store fresh carrots, but I’ve never tried any of them long term. In the past 5 1/2 years of homesteading, I’ve learned many times over again that books don’t always get it right, nor do they always give you all of the information you’ll need to be successful. Something might sound good on paper, but when you try it in real life you encounter problems that you never envisioned having to deal with. Until you try it yourself, you really don’t know what to expect.
Since we had a great harvest this year, I thought I’d do some experimenting with seeing how well fresh carrots will store long term. We don’t have a basement or a root cellar, but we do have a crawl space under the house which stays very cool throughout the summer months. I figured I’d stick a tub of carrots down there to see how long they last, and note any problems I run into.
I chose sand because it was what I had. Sawdust from untreated wood can also be used. I even read somewhere that you can use wild moss from the woods… which would be interesting to try.
Cover the carrots with 2″ of damp sand, and repeat the layering process.
I only did two layers of carrots because I didn’t want to waste too many if it didn’t go well. Also, the tub was HEAVY with all that sand. It was all I could do to push it into the crawl space. In all I used about 8 or 9 gallons of sand.
To continue reading how the crawl space experiment went, read here:
I’ll keep you updated on how the carrots are doing after several weeks of being stored in the crawl space. I hope it works, ’cause we much prefer fresh carrots over cooked or canned ones.
I’m so, so pleased with how many big carrots we got from the garden this year. Out of sheer nostalgia, I looked through my archives and got a good laugh at my first few attempts at growing carrots. I particularly enjoyed a flashback to 2011 when I had my first significant harvest. No matter how small the harvest, I was always excited that at least something grew. It’s such an encouragement to see how far we’ve come through trial and error. Gardening takes persistence, but if you keep trying eventually you’ll figure out what works and what doesn’t. Don’t give up!
I’d love to know how you keep your fresh carrots crisp! What steps do you take to store them long term?