Mary's Veggie Garden

February 13, 2010

Eating from the Garden in Winter: Carrots

Filed under: Carrots,Gardening,Root Cellar,Vegetables — marysveggiegarden @ 2:35 pm

In NYS, if you want to eat from your garden all year, you must be able to store vegetables. It is February: the ground is frozen and the garden is blanketed by 4″ of snow.

Carrots 'Bolero' stored 11 weeks

As biennials, carrots are an ideal vegetable for winter storage.  That fat orange root is the food supply that will get a carrot through the winter, to grow and bloom in the spring. There are two traditional storage methods for carrots: in a root cellar or in the garden. This year my carrots are in a ‘root cellar’.

Stocking Up” (Rodale Press, 1977) gives directions for underground storage of carrots, beets, turnips & rutabagas. “These root vegetables should be harvested in late November, after 30 degree nights. Root crops of this type can be stored by removing the tops — do not wash — and placing them in an area just above freezing, with 95% humidity. They can be packed in cans, boxes, or bins, surrounded by straw, or they can be placed in moist sand, or in any outdoor storage pit or root cellar.”

Nov. 15-30, 2009 I dug over 65 pounds of carrots from my Vassar Farm plot. I twisted off the leafy tops and (not following directions) washed the carrots.  Then I placed them in crisscrossed layers in clean food-grade 5 gallon plastic buckets. The lids were placed loosely on the buckets. I did NOT use any straw or sand as packing material.

The buckets were stored in the ‘black hole’, an enclosed area under our concrete patio. By late Dec., the outside overnight temperature was consistently dropping into the teens, and I moved the buckets into the coldest part of the basement. I wanted to avoid freezing the carrots, because freezing changes their texture.

The warmth of the basement (47-52 degrees) caused the carrots to start growing. In early January I used a knife to cut off the tops very close to the roots.  I didn’t want the carrots to use up their sweetness by growing leaves. I also emptied about 1/2 cup of condensation from each bucket. The humidity was high enough in the buckets to collect on the lids, and run down the inside walls, although I have not seen any problems with mold or rot.

Carrots 'Red Cored Chantenay' stored 10 weeks

Now in mid-February, the carrots are still crispy and fresh. They are no longer loosing moisture like they did in December, although there is still a bit of condensation inside the buckets.  The buckets are back in the ‘black hole’. A sensor in one of the buckets showed that the temperature never dropped below freezing, even when it was 15 degrees outside.

The pictures show the two types of stored carrots: Bolero and Red Cored Chantenay.  The Boleros are a bit sweeter than the Chantenay and much less likely to grow leaves while stored.

On March 22, 2010 we ate the last carrots from my 2009 garden. The Boleros stayed sweet and crisp until the end.


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