Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Signs of Spring ... and Winter Carrot Harvest

Snowdrop, Narcissus and Crocus buds
We've just flipped the calendar to March ... frogs are singing in the marsh, the first flower buds are an uplifting sight and the air is filled with raucous eagle chatter. A pair of Bald Eagles have been building a nest within our view and it looks like they're back to mate this Spring! We are incredibly blessed and excited to watch this magnificent spectacle of nature from the comfort of our living room!
Bald Eagles and their nest on our property

In the garden, it's time to get those winter carrots out of the ground! I checked some of the first crop, planted May/June 2019. It was a small test plot planted in a narrow, 1-foot wide raised bed, covered with remay since planting to keep the carrot rust fly out. It worked, the carrots were clean!! I planted a larger bed on June 29th, 2019 for winter harvest, mulched then fully covered with remay from the time of planting to the beginning of November. Once the remay was removed, all of the winter vegetables were heavily mulched again with straw. Later the carrot tops were totally covered over with maple leaves to protect the crop from cold temperatures and our January snow. Yes, we got about 22" of snow although it didn't stay on the ground for long.
Carrot harvest March 1st, 2020 ~ planted June 29th, 2019

Cleaned for use and storage
A few days ago ... March 1st 2020, I pulled back the mulch and checked the carrots. They were not yet going 'hairy' which is when they start to grow small roots in warmer spring temperatures. There were lots of active worms in the soil so I decided to pull the remaining winter crop while the weather was still cool. Needless to say I am really impressed and thrilled with my 15+ pound harvest! 

From the June 29th, 2019 planting there are some really good sized roots with great color and so sweet! There were very few carrots with insect damage, the majority being from slugs at the green ends that are cut and composted anyways.

When properly cleaned and stored, this harvest will keep in the fridge for a few months... if they last that long! The carrots are first rinsed to remove any heavy soil, see the first photo in a stainless steel bowl. 
The tips removed, any insect damage removed and the carrot is lightly scrubbed with a surgical scrub brush. (Also called 'The World's Kindest Nail Brush' through Lee Valley Tools.) This little nylon brush is gentle and very effective ... compare the 2 photos; before and after cleaning for use and storage.
Ready for the fridge

Once the carrots are cleaned and sorted into sizes, pack into large zip type bags that have a paper towel liner to absorb any excess moisture. This prevents them from going slimy from being in contact with the plastic and keeps the carrots crisp. The bags are marked with the harvest date and stored in the crisper/vegetable section of the fridge. I previously used this method with great success for years. Every few weeks, check the stored carrots for any signs of spoiling. Remove any culprits and use immediately or discard.

Growing winter carrots takes a fair amount of attention and work ... but have you ever eaten a fresh carrot from the garden between December and March? It is worth the effort and time growing this incredible winter crop in our West Coast climate!

Until next time... Happy Spring, enjoy those carrots ... and Bon App├ętit!
Photos by Sally Rae

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