Harvesting and Storing Carrots
Carrots are root vegetables that are high in beta-carotene, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. Carrots are one of the most nutritious vegetables that have been shown to greatly improve eyesight and fight heart disease, among other benefits. Carrots are delicious eaten raw or cooked, and are used in a variety of food preparations. Only the roots of carrots are edible, and if harvested and stored properly can last for several months.
Step 1 – Determine the Harvest Time
Carrots can be harvested at 9 or 10 weeks of growth. Fresh carrots are immature carrots that are not fully developed. Fresh carrots are sweeter and tastier. Mature carrots are fully grown carrots, which can last for 5 or 6 months. Fresh carrots, on the other hand, can only be stored for a little over a month. Depending on the time you planted your carrots, and the type of carrots you want, you can decide on the time to harvest the plants. Avoid letting the carrots stay in the ground too long, as they will toughen. Old carrots have hard cores that make them inedible and tasteless.
Step 2 – Harvest the Carrots
Carrots have very deep roots that are difficult to pry out. If you just try to pull the carrots out by holding the leaves, they will break off, complicating the process further. Before pulling out the carrots, loosen the soil around and under the roots. Using a spade or garden fork, dig the soil around the carrots, leaving a gap of 1 foot from the roots. Do not plunge the tool at an angle, as this may damage the roots. Carefully loosen the soil, and then plunge the spade under the carrots to heave them out.
Step 3 – Prepare the Carrots for Storage
Once you have removed the carrots from the ground, remove the leaves at 7 or 8 inches from the roots. The leaves absorb moisture from the roots, and are better to cut off. Inspect all the carrots for any signs of damage or cuts. Keep the damaged carrots aside and use them as soon as possible. The other carrots can be kept aside for storage. Wash the carrots and dry them thoroughly. Discard any carrots that show signs of rotting. When stored immediately in your refrigerator, carrots can last for a few months.
Step 4 – Store the Carrots
For long term storage, keep the carrots in a cool, dark place such as a shed or a garage. In a cardboard box, put a layer of sand or newspaper in the bottom. Cover with carrots spread out in a single layer. Repeat this layering, and cover all the carrots. Make sure the temperature in your storage does not drop below 0ºC or rise over 4ºC. If the temperature is too high, the carrots may sprout or rot. Avoid damp conditions as well, as they may also contribute to rotting.