Harvesting and storing homegrown carrots
Once they have reached the desired size, short-rooted early varieties can be harvested from early summer, and harvesting can continue for several weeks. These carrots are at their best and most tender when still quite small, between 2.5 and 5 cm (1-2”) long. Earlier thinnings can also be used, although because of their small size they are a bit awkward to deal with in the kitchen. If the ground is dry, water thoroughly the night before pulling, so the carrots come out of thewithout being damaged.
Although carrots are reasonably frost-hardy, it is a good idea to lift maincrop carrots by the end of mid-autumn. If you live in a particularly mild area, you can leave them in the ground well into winter, but cover the crop with bracken or clean dry straw whenever heavy frost threatens. If left in the ground all winter, though, they are vulnerable to attack by frost, carrot fly and slugs.
When carrots are fully mature and ready for lifting, the outer leaves begin to wilt and the remaining foliage curls up. This is an indication that they have stopped growing, and there is no point in leaving them in the ground any longer.
Choose a dry day at the end of the season to lift the crop. Use a garden fork to loosen the carrots from the soil, and then pull them out by the foliage. After lifting, cut off the foliage near the crown and put it on theheap. Remove all the soil adhering to the roots and examine the carrots carefully before storing. Any which have been accidentally speared by the fork during the lifting operation should be set aside to be eaten at once, as damaged carrots quickly rot.
Carrots can be stored outdoors in a hole filled with dry sand and covered with straw, or in a clamp like. If properly constructed, the carrots can be kept in the clamp through winter and well into spring. These storage methods are most useful if you have a very large crop; for moderate or small-sized harvests, it is more convenient to store them indoors in a box in a cool frost-proof shed or cellar. To do this, fill a box with a 5 cm (2”) layer of sand, and then place a layer of carrots head to tail, on the sand, followed by alternating layers of sand and carrots. The final layer should be sand, and the carrots can be easily removed from the box as needed.
Carrots stored in a clamp will keep firm and fresh for several months; carrots stored in boxes will keep for a slightly shorter period of time.