Harvest time in the garden can be beyond overwhelming. What to do with everything that has been carefully nurtured all season can send most gardeners on a quest to find the best way to store a variety of fruit, vegetables, herbs, flowers, grains, and seeds.
As I pondered the fate of this year’s crop of carrots, it suddenly came to me that carrots must be the most versatile vegetable for winter storage. Consider the storage choices of other prolific vegetables or fruit.
One might do well canned and frozen, another only frozen, or yet another only canned. Some that would store best in a root cellar, might also do well canned and/or frozen.
Grains, dry beans, herbs, flowers, and seeds will mainly require some form of dry storage.
Now let’s look at the many options for storing carrots.
A very popular storage method for carrots and can be frozen in a variety of cuts and sizes for convenient use in recipes. The disadvantage is potential loss due to extended power outages.
Few people realize that carrots picked fresh from the garden can be stored in the refrigerator for nine months (longer with perfect conditions).
When carrots arrive at the store, they were likely stored this way for months already. To stay crisp and maintain freshness, they must be cleaned, topped, and allowed to retain some moisture although not so much that they begin to mold.
Zipper bags left partially open work well. This option is great if you have an extra refrigerator and other methods are not available.
A method developed in the late 18th century and widely used since. Recipes that include carrots such as jams, marmalades, chutneys, or pickling brines can usually be processed in a hot water bath.
To safely can plain carrots, a pressure cooker is required due to their low acidity. The cost of a pressure cooker may not be justifiable if only used for a few jars of carrots.
However, the ability to preserve a wider variety of foods without refrigeration required and with double or triple the shelf life of other methods may be worth the investment. Potential quantities are limited only by shelf space not by freezer size.
In the ground in the garden
In milder climates where the ground gets cold but does not freeze solid, carrots can be covered with straw and picked as needed throughout the cooler months.
You might want to consider who, or what, may be looking for a winter meal too.
Roots cellars have been used to store carrots for centuries. They were probably among the most common means of storage for many fruits and vegetables before the invention of canning and refrigeration.
Most newer homes will not have a root cellar so unless you have space and build your own, you will not be able to take advantage of this age old proven method of storing carrots, potatoes, apples, and other root crops.
Simulated root cellar
There is a way to simulate the conditions of a root cellar to store carrots (and other root crops), even without the benefit of a “real” root cellar.
Any critter proof container filled with damp (not wet) sand or garden soil mixture and stored in a cool dark place will keep carrots fresh for months. An unheated basement, barn, or garage is a perfect location in most climates.
In a cool, milder climate, the container can be stored outside. Store in the shade and/or protect under straw to avoid heating with solar energy.
How many folks think of dehydrating carrots? Dehydrating is a great storage solution when indoor storage is required, the fridge and freezer are too full, and the supply of canning jars is getting low.
Dehydrated carrots can be stored in regular airtight containers and simply tossed into soups or other liquid recipes as needed. They can also be easily reconstituted for use in breads and salads.
Since carrots can stay in the ground through a frost (which will actually make them sweeter), there is no rush to process or store them at the same time as other tender crops.
If space is limited, carrots can be one of the last to be put up in the remaining space or by a method that is not conducive to other crops.
With extra options available, it is easy to store them in a variety of ways that will suit your needs throughout the year – freeze some, can others, dehydrate some more, and leave some in the ground if possible.
It would be difficult to have more carrots than you are able to store in some fashion. However, if you do end up with more than you can realistically store, don’t forget family, friends, neighbors, and the local soup kitchen.