Even though seeds are tiny and rather tedious to sow evenly, and the weeds must be hand-picked away from the fragile young plants, and the watering has to be just so--(thorough, but not too much, not to hard, and not dry out in between either)---despite all that---I think the carrots are one of my favorite things that we have grown, because of the good yield that can be grown and the flavor simply cannot be beat. Next year I hope to figure out what I am doing wrong to cause them to grow sort of short and stubby, rather than long and slender as typically you would picture a carrot to be. The only real complaint I have about the stunted size is that it makes cleaning/peeling them a little more difficult when you get a whole pile of little nubs, but that just takes some more patience and determination.
To harvest the carrots, I simply took hold of the green tops with one hand and stuck the trowel into the dirt near the carrot to loosen and ease the root up without breaking it off. My husband took a more aggressive approach and used a short handled garden fork and loosened and raised the dirt carrots and all as he went along, then went back and picked up the uprooted veggies once he reached the end of his section. We used a pair of scissors to clip the greens off and tossed the carrots into a laundry basket.
Although we did use a lot of the fresh carrots, we had enough that I needed to put some up for later use. When I got ready to "process" our mighty carrot haul, I first sorted them into a couple size categories just for ease of cleaning and more even cooking times later on. In several batches, I brought the carrots in and scrubbed them with a new kitchen sponge and cool water. Each and every carrot had its ends trimmed off, received a good scraping with the vegetable peeler, followed by another good rinse, after which they were sliced. Then they were ready for several preservation options.
Option 1: Blanch & Freeze
Boiling water 2 min, Ice bath. Drain on towel. Single layer on waxed paper lined cookie sheet--flash freeze. Package in freezer zip bags or containers.
Option 2: Canning
This was my first attempt at canning using a Pressure Canner. Certain foods such as vegetables are considered low acid foods, and must therefore be pressurized during canning to ensure bacteria is killed and the product will keep well and be safe to eat. Meats are another category which must be canned with a pressure cooker, however most fruits and items that contain vinegar (like pickles) do not need to be. There are recommended times and pressure settings for various foods which should be read thoroughly and observed in any case. In this instance, I borrowed a Pressure Canner from my aunt, and she sent along the booklet of instructions which said for quart jars of carrots I needed to set the pressure regulator to 10 pds, and process them for 25 minutes. For my first try at it, they turned out alright, but I think I may have allowed the water to boil a little too hard which made some of the liquid inside the jars escape. Nevertheless, 6 of the 7 quarts sealed fine, and we just put that one straight in the refrigerator and used it up within a few days.
Option 3: Dehydrating
Not wanting to put "all my eggs in one basket" or in fact all my carrot store in one form, I decided to try putting some in my dehydrator. As you can see in this picture I had some help with that job! Even little hands can do a lot to help!
We filled each of the trays with a single layer of carrot slices, plugged in the dehydrator, and came back about 24 hours later...
I am extremely pleased with the results of our carrot drying experiment.
Once the slices were still slightly leather but near brittle, they were finished and able to be stored in glass jars. This lightweight, low volume storage option preserves so much flavor and nutrients, and these cute, crinkly-edged, dry carrots will be a good addition to a slow simmering soup recipe.
Definitely looking forward to including carrots in next year's garden plans.