row of freshly pulled carrots
Blog,  Carrots,  Successful Garden

The Best Way to Harvest, Store, and Preserve Carrots

No Rubbery Carrots Allowed!

Have you ever opened your refrigerator to grab a bag of crisp carrots only to discover that they…well, they aren’t crisp anymore? Ugh. Why did that happen? I hate to break it to you, but if that happened, they weren’t fresh when you bought them! Or maybe they were not processed correctly and the rubbery thing happened quickly. Somehow, moisture found it’s way into a scar in one carrot and it began a normal process of breaking down. Gross, huh? 

Guess what? 

Freshly harvested carrots can last for at least six months in your refrigerator! And still be crisp! 

It’s super easy to harvest and store carrots. Carrots from your garden are sweeter and have more flavor than any store-bought carrots ever dreamed of having! Hey, it’s not just this gardener being proud of her crop, making wild statements! I’ve shared my carrots with others who say they can’t believe how sweet my homegrown carrots are. 

First Things First

You grew them! Yay! You conquered the question about when to plant and care for them. And now, they are ready to be pulled out of the ground. There is definitely a method and the right time of year to sow carrot seeds here in central Florida. Please don’t try planting them in the Spring! This is one crop that must be planted in the Fall and grown throughout the Winter. If you live farther north, these instructions are still for you-simply adjust the time frame and you’re good to go. 

Timing is Everything

Florida Growers: Sow carrot seeds in early October, harvest in the Spring.

When you sow carrots in the Fall, they take all winter and well into Spring to mature. In fact, your Spring garden can be planted all around the bed of carrots while you wait for the carrots to finish! Mid-March to early April is a good time to harvest them, but it’s such a thrill to pull them a few weeks prior to that when they are young and super tender.

You don’t have to wait until all of the carrots are big!

Young carrots are delicious roasted. As the carrots grow bigger, you will need to pull some in order to create space for the others to have room to expand and grow more. Thinning carrots is easy and so rewarding. After letting them grow about 12 weeks, pull a couple. If they are one-half inch in diameter, you just found a gold mine! Grab your garden basket or a bowl and thin them out for a bonus veggie for dinner that day. I recommend that you leave two to three inches between the green tops that you see above the dirt. It may look a bit sparse but, trust me, they will grow some more. Your family will love them. Children LOVE pulling carrots out of the ground but watch it or they will pull them all! Now, if you can just get them to learn to love eating them too!

Simple Roasted Young Carrot Recipe

The recipe is super easy. You will love your young carrots so much that You might be tempted to pull more while you are waiting for them to get bigger. 

Start with carrots that are one-half inch wide at the top. Using a washcloth or a body wash-glove (it’s such a cool time saver), wash the carrots, one-by-one. I leave about half an inch of green top because it’s pretty, but you can twist off all the green, or cut a bit off the top. Spray the carrots with olive oil and lay them out on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt (I use pink Himalayan salt) and a fresh herb of your choice. Try snipped dill leaves as an extra subtle flavor. Marjoram works well with carrots too. Bake 15 minutes at 350. Test for the desired doneness. I like mine to be “al dente” but hubby likes them to be softer. You be the judge! Watch them after 15 minutes as they can become hard after that. Cover with foil to hold the moisture in. Check every few minutes until they are soft enough for your taste.

How to Harvest a Mature Crop of Carrots 

First of all, Carrots need to grow in a raised bed. Your carrots are growing in a raised bed or long “hill”. This ensures that they have plenty of room to grow straight down and not make crazy legs going in all directions if they hit an obstacle or hard ground. The raised bed also makes it super easy to harvest.


The Best Harvesting Tool for Carrots

A good pitchfork can last a lifetime. Buy a good one. It’s worth it. It is a workhorse for many garden chores, including loosening soil as a first step of building the raised bed for the carrots. I admit, that when it’s time to harvest your carrots, you could simply pull them out of the ground, but if you use a pitchfork to loosen them first, you will lessen the risk of breaking the carrots. And a broken carrot could be a culprit that will start a big bunch of stored carrots to deteriorate.  That would be so sad after all that work.

The Harvest Technique

To harvest carrots, carefully run the tines next to the carrots and deep into the soil. Gently lift the soil (with the carrots) up and at a slight angle, laying the pitchfork slightly outward to expose the carrots. What a thrill to see all those carrots! Now you are ready to gently pull the carrots out of the dirt and lay them on their side. Repeat that simple step until your row is finished.

Remove the green tops

This is so easy. No tools needed. Grasp the carrot in one hand and use the other hand to grasp the tops about one inch from the carrot. Then, twist the tops and snap off. Leave the tops right there in the path or lay them on what’s left of the raised bed. You can turn them under and plant a Spring veggie right over the top of them. Alternately, you can leave the tops on or cut them off with scissors. Be careful though. Remember, any “cuts” are great places for bacteria to get in and begin the natural process of breaking things down, aka, rot. 

The Best Way  to Prepare Carrots for Storage so They Will Last For Months

Don’t make these mistakes!

  1. Scrubbing the carrots
  2. Storing them while wet
  3. Leaving them out to dry for too long

Instead, do this:

  1. Spread freshly harvested carrots onto a hard surface located in the shade (very important!). Don’t put this off for another day. Do it within a couple of hours after you pull them from the ground.
  2. Spray with a hose nozzle set on a medium spray strength to loosen most of the soil
  3. Leave them in the shade to dry
  4. As soon as they are dry, store them (no damp carrots allowed!)
  5. BE SURE THEY ARE DRY! But not dried out to the point that they begin to be rubbery. 

The Best Container for Storing Your Carrots 

Carrots definitely need to be stored in a refrigerator if you live in the deep south. The container you choose is very important if you need them to last a long time. There are plastic containers designed especially for fresh vegetables. I have an old Tupperware container that works amazingly well after all these years, so I can’t recommend the new containers on the market because I haven’t tried them. Do you have any recommendations?

I CAN HIGHLY recommend this for storing ANY vegetable or fruit.

Debbie Meyer bags. Seriously. They WORK! The bags can be rinsed, dried, and reused more times than the package says, making the purchase a good investment. The package doesn’t include a way to close up the bag, so you will need to have clips for plastic bags. I am not an affiliate but you can order bags online from Amazon or from Bed, Bath, and Beyond. The company also has boxes, but I haven’t tried them. 

Finally, place them in the refrigerator! It’s really that easy!

If you use the bags, put the bag into the fresh veggie drawer. I often don’t have room for all those carrots to fit in a drawer, so I place them on the shelf above the drawers until I have room to transfer them there. The drawers are designed to keep produce fresh, so I recommend you take advantage of them. 

Free cheatsheet for the best varieties and where to buy seeds online. Your subscription has the secret code to the library full of free workbooks.  

(Those are carrot seeds on the plate!)

How to Preserve Carrots by “Canning”

First, Have Your Equipment Washed and Ready to Use:

After you have washed the carrots, you may choose to peel them. Carrots can be placed in jars whole but I recommend cutting them so you can simply open a jar and heat them up for your meal or continue forward in a recipe. Cut them as wide or as thin as you prefer. I use a wavy tool that came from Pampered Chef a long time ago. It’s easier on my hands than a butcher knife. 

Your Essential Equipment:

  • Knife or similar tool for cutting
  • Peeler
  • Quart jars
  • Rings and lids
  • Canner

Instructions for Canning

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for any injuries that could possibly be caused by the pressure canner. Please follow all safety measures carefully.

These instructions are for quart jars. DO NOT use jars that are not specifically for canning. Invest in real canning jars. Canning jars are designed to withstand the pressure in your canner-other jars can and will burst with the pressure. Canning jars are typically sold by the dozen and can be found in grocery stores and big box stores. Jars will last many seasons, being used over and over again, so it’s worth the money you will spend for safety. A new box of jars will come with the rings and lids. The rings can be used a few times before they get rusty and difficult to use, so you will need to purchase more of those after a few uses. The lids may NOT be used again. Be sure you are using NEW lids each time you recycle your jars. Rings and lids can be purchased separately in the same stores.  

The Canner

Yes, they are expensive. The size you need is a 16-quart cooker which will fit seven quart jars inside. Used canners are as good as new ones, but be sure to inspect and test the rubber seal before you are ready to can, just to be sure it will seal. Simply put water in the canner, nothing else. Close the top with the seal in place and the jiggler on the top. If the jiggle starts, your seal is good. Your test is finished. Be sure to let the pressure down either naturally or under running cold water. The seals typically last fifteen to twenty years. Even if you have to order a new seal, a used canner can be a good bargain because the canner will literally last a lifetime. Be sure the “jiggler” is included in your purchase. 

Instant Pot Note: I do not know if the instant pot can also be used as a canner. Perhaps in smaller quantities or maybe pint jars can be used. If you plan to harvest and can veggies from a garden, I highly recommend investing in a large canner. 

sliced carrots in quart jars for canning
Your carrots will last for years with proper preparation .

Canning Instructions: 

Here are the easy steps:

  1. Wash and peel carrots
  2. Cut them into desired width
  3. Fill your jar to the “hip” of the jar
  4. Add ½ to 1 teaspoon of salt on top of each filled jar
  5. Place the jars into your canner
  6. Fill the jars with HOTTEST tap water to within ½ inch from top
  7. Place lid on each jar and screw on the ring portion to just “snug”
  8. Fill the canner with HOTTEST tap water about 2 inches above half-way up the jars.
  9. Put the lid on the canner, being sure the seal is seated in the lid correctly. 
  10. Turn on the burner to high
  11. When the jiggle starts, set a time to 30 minutes. 
  12. Turn the heat down to about medium. You want the jiggler to jiggle at least once per minute. 
  13. After 30 minutes is up, turn off the heat 
  14. Let the whole canner cool down naturally. This can take over an hour. 
  15. If you are sure the canner is cooled and the pressure has dissipated, twist the canner lid off. (See my disclaimer statement above.)
  16. Check the temperature of the water in the canner. Wait until the water is comfortably warm before removing the jars. 
  17. Remove jars to a cooling rack or towel. 
  18. Listen for the “pop” that lets you know the jars are sealed. 
  19. When jars are completely cool to the touch, remove the rings. 
  20. Tap the top of the lids to make sure they are sunken inward and sealed. If one is loose, store immediately in the refrigerator and use it within 24 hours. Be sure you boil the carrots for food safety.

Store your amazing harvest in a cool, dark place. 

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Want to grow your own? Look for the post coming soon. You will be amazed at the difference in the taste and quality of homegrown carrots!

Debbie

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.Mat 6:33 CSB

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