Eat garden-grown carrots, turnips, beets and radishes for months after harvesting. Pick plump vegetables and tuck them away in safe, cool storage conditions. The goal is to make the roots feel like they are still in the garden. The safest storage place is your refrigerator. Carrots and other root crops often taste sweeter after they have been refrigerated for a few weeks.
Prompt harvesting and storage gets these long-lasting vegetables out of harm’s way. While most root crops last in the garden through fall, they can be a target for insect and animal pests. Plus, heavy rains after a period of dry weather can cause roots to crack.
Harvest and Store Root Crops:
- Harvest root crops on a cool day when the soil is somewhat dry.
- Loosen the soil a few inches outside the planting, and then pull up carrots, beets or other roots. Place them in a large bucket or a small laundry basket.
- Spray vegetables gently with water to remove soil, but do not scrub them. Handle freshly harvested roots gently to avoid scratches and bruises.
- Cut off the tops of all root vegetables to less than a half inch. Removing the leaves and stems keeps the roots from depleting their moisture supply, and triples their storage life. Save the nicest turnip and beet greens for cooking.
- Arrange crops on a clean kitchen towel and pat the roots dry. Allow to air-dry at a cool room temperature for an hour.
- Store crops in a cool, dark place through the first weeks of winter. Pack in plastic bags in your refrigerator or store in buckets, barely covered with sand or sawdust, in an enclosed area where temperatures range from 30 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Tip: Apples and pears naturally give off ethylene gas, which can cause stored root vegetables to soften. Storing these fruits in a separate bin in your refrigerator will prevent this problem.