How to store carrots.
The flowers of the spring have already bloomed and tucked back into the soil while the strong perennials take their place in the potager and greenhouse gardens. As of today, the bright blue delphinium stick above the yarrow and strawberry plants. The lovage now reaches the roof life and the market garden beds have already been cleared out of their first crop to make room for another round. Le Chalet is positively brimming with life as of late and I've daily faced with the choice to either succeed to the recesses of the indoors to document the firework show or sit outside in the gentle early summer sun and watch it first hand. I'm assuming you know which one I choose most days.
As the planning of the market garden began late last winter, I set out with the lofty goal of doing my best to be a proper gardener this year. Like Monty Don, Tasha Tudor, and all the greats. I didn't just want to grow food, I wanted to grow food. Know-what-I'm-sayin? So when I set a lofty goal of supplying our cottage with a year's worth of carrots, I knew it'd be a stretch. And I won't say this crop came easy. I've been gardening for a decade now and in all that time, I'm harvested such a small amount of carrots it's almost too pitiful to put a number on. But I'd say it's somewhere in the seven-pound range. Ever. Go me! Hoozah!
(Hoozah is the sound I make when I've done something really awesome.)
Awhile back I met Grace, a trained market gardener who saw me – a pathetic, flopping little gardening bird – and took me under her wing. We'd walk her garden beds in the blistering summer sun while she pointed out watering methods, weed management tools, and new varieties of turnips. I took notes on planting dates and mulching methods while putting in a few hours of labor to help her get ready for the Saturday morning market. For the self-taught gardener, a few hours with a mentor was a deep breath of the oxygen I breathe.
As she reminds me often, ten seconds of someone showing you what to do in the garden is worth almost a decade of experience. As we worked the beds in her market garden, she taught me the importance of a broadfork and of thinning. That, my friends, was the beginning of a love affair with growing carrots.
So before I show you how to store carrots (and beets), I have a few tips to share with you about growing them as well. Because you can't store them if you can't grow them, know-what-I'm-sayin? Ya. You know.
Hear the angels singing? My thrift-store cart was filled to the top with a bounty of storage carrots from Johnny's Select Seeds. My children ate as many as they harvested, but despite their nibbling, the cart was filled in just a few short minutes. We were only able to harvest this from the market garden because of a few growing techniques:
- Prep the planting row with a broadfork: Carrots are root crops and thus, grow deep down into the soil. Tilled soil is not deep enough! A 12″ broadfork, though a slight investment, is worth its weight in gold. This single tool has shattered my ceiling as a gardener. In fact, it deserves its own post. I think I'll write that next. Point being, before any carrots are planted, the soil must be broadforked. This enables the carrots to grow deep and straight with ease. I purchased my broadfork from Johnny's online.
- Plant the seeds into 2″ of fine compost: I found this improved germination rates exponentially. Carrots like to be kept super moist while they're germinating and if you've ever grown carrots, you know they can take forever to germinate. The compost works to keep them at a stable moisture level during this critical germination period. I used bagged organic compost for this, since it's nice and fine, and put it in a single layer on top of the soil bed – almost like icing a cake.
- Plant pelleted seed: Though this is not entirely necessary, I find pelleted seed to be extraordinarily helpful. It's larger and covered in a white coating, making the microscopic seeds much easier to see during planting. The result of this is lest wasted seed (the result of planting too close together) and less thinning later on. I choose to grow varieties that will store well.
- Thin like a madman: Grace suggests giving each carrot an inch or more on each side. The thinnings can be used in salads, so nothing goes to waste. The result is carrots that have room to grow freely and beautifully.
These beauties were harvested a few weeks shy of their ideal date because the voles had taken up residence in the garden bed and were nibbling their way through too many for my liking. I figured a smaller carrot in storage is better than a larger carrot in a vole's stomach, know-what-I'm-sayin?
I'm glad you understand what I'm saying.
Back to the matter at hand. How to store carrots!
How To Store Carrots
The carrots are harvested and topped. At this point, they can be dunked into a large bowl of cold water which will help the carrots to remain firm and crisp during storage. Allow them to hang in the water for a few minutes before removing them.
In a wooden or plastic crate with holes or slates for drainage, lay down a single layer of potting soil or wood chips. Both of these mediums will absorb extra moisture so that the carrots do not rot. This is important! As we learn how to store carrots we want to avoid carrots rotting. Right? Right.
Lay the carrots in a single layer over top of the potting soil or wood chips. Add on another layer of the medium and then add in another layer of the carrots. Repeat until the crate is full.
See that teeny little carrot in the center of the picture? Not sure how he found his way into the big boy crate, but alas, he did. Actually quite sweet, isn't it? I love little things.
After the crates are layered and filled, top them off with one more layer of the medium so that all of the carrots are under the mulch. Carrots are happiest in dark, cool places, which is exactly what we're going to give them.
If you have a cool garage or basement, the carrots would be happy there. Or, if you only have a refrigerator, you may want to pack the carrots into smaller crates (as long as it has a few drainage holes, you're good.).
After the crates are finished being filled, hose them down to get the medium and carrots gently wet for their storage. We certainly don't want any dry carrots, now do we? … No. Rhetorical question.
These carrots pictured will primarily be eaten on through the summer and a second round will be grown to harvest in the fall for winter storage. These particular crates are kept in the extra refrigerator, but during the fall, the harvest will be kept in our root cellar. To utilize the stored carrots, one only needs to brush back the mulch, grab a basket full, and respread the mulch back over the remaining carrots.
Mega bonus: The exact same method works for beets too! Literally. Do the exact same thing.
I'm thankful that Grace showed me how to store carrots. And I'm thankful that now I get to share the knowledge of how to store carrots with you. In the depths of February, when the ground is cold and crusty, we'll be glad we did.