Harvesting carrots really couldn't be simpler. It's what you do with the carrots after picking them that counts.
Carrots can be harvested before they are fully mature. These immature carrots are often referred to as baby carrots. In general, baby carrots are usually juicier and more tender. Carrots that are allowed to mature fully are much larger and usually have a higher sugar content. Pay attention to the seed packet for harvesting information. You can begin picking carrots about 20 days before they reach maturity. So if
the variety you choose is ready for harvest in 70 days, you can begin harvesting them at 50 days for baby carrots. The carrots will become larger everyday after this until they reach full maturity.
When harvesting carrots, grasp to tops firmly and tug gently. Most of the time, the carrots will come out fairly easily. You can also use a small garden fork or trowel to loosen the dirt next to the carrots. This may make it easier to pull them out of the ground. If the top breaks off in your hands and the carrot remains in the ground, don't panic. You can still dig up the stubborn carrot using a small shovel or garden fork.
In most climates, harvest a spring crop of carrots as soon as they reach maturity or before. Don't wait, as the ground will heat up and the carrots will begin to spoil.
When it comes to harvesting carrots in the fall, you have more options. You can harvest the carrots normally when they reach maturity or before. If you live in a climate with mild winters, you can actually leave the carrots in the ground and harvest them at will for several months over the winter. As long as the ground doesn't freeze solid over the winter, this is a good option, especially if you have a bumper crop of carrots. If you choose this method to store your carrots, wait for the tops to die back. Then cover the entire carrot patch with black plastic sheets. Apply a layer of mulch on top of the plastic. Make sure the mulch is at least 12 inches deep. Then cover the mulch with another layer of black plastic sheets. Anchor the sheets to the ground using large stones or stakes. This method will keep the carrots protected from an occasional hard freeze over the winter months. You can then peel back a little of the mulch and plastic at a time and harvest the carrots as needed throughout the winter months.
After harvesting carrots, you have several storage options. You can store them in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator, unwashed. They will stay fresh for up to 8 weeks if placed in a perforated bag with the tops trimmed to 1/2 inch above the carrot. You can also dry them using a food dehydrator or preserve them in jars using recommended canning methods. Carrots can also easily be frozen. Blanch sliced carrots in boiling water for 3 minutes and then plunge in ice water for 3 minutes. Drain the carrots and seal in air-tight plastic bags.
Place the bags in a freezer. They will last for up to 9 months.
Now that you know all about harvesting carrots and storing them, it's time for a few recipe ideas.