One of the things we’re starting to feel like we’re really getting the hang of as far as gardening goes is garden carrots. Carrots are super easy to grow and maintain, and as such, we’ve always gotten a pretty good yield from our garden carrots. We do eat them fresh, but mostly we peel, blanch and freeze them in a variety of sizes for later use. Here are some of the things you might want to know about growing garden carrots and how to preserve them for later use.
Garden Carrots: Lesson #1
The biggest thing we’ve learned about growing garden carrots is that you absolutely have to thin them out if you’ve got several plants growing close together. I used to hate thinning the carrots out (pulling out plants that are too close to other plants for the purpose of helping the remaining plants to thrive) because it felt wasteful to me to rip those perfectly healthy plants out of the ground. However, there’s a very good reason for thinning your carrots plants out.
A healthy carrot, when it’s pulled, will look like these guys:
A carrot or carrots, however, that haven’t been thinned out, run the risk of doing this:
When the carrots aren’t thinned out and are allowed to grow to maturity even though the plants are too close together, you drastically reduce the yield and the “usability” of the carrot(s), as the carrots fight for attention and space, which in essence, drains them of the ability to reach their full potential. Even with these goofy looking guys, we still peel and chop them best as we can, but it’s a whole lot more of a pain in the tail than it is with regular carrots.
Storing and Freezing Your Carrots
When prepping the carrots to freeze, we cut them in a variety of ways. We slice them (for soups and such), leave them whole and cut them into large pieces(for pot roasts), chop them into smaller pieces (for casseroles and homemade pot pies) and grate them (for carrot cake and such). All four of these methods of prepping the carrots will allow for freezing, and we suggest using a FoodSaver Food Vacuum V3240 type of a system, as this eliminates the most air from the bags, seals them properly, allowing for longer lasting veggies and reduces freezer burn.
Carrots will also last a good long time in a root cellar if you have one. There are a variety of ways to build a root cellar that are easy and can work in nearly any yard. We suggest getting this book on root cellaring to learn of the many creative options for having a root cellar in your yard or home.
Those Pesky Garden Pests
Depending on where you live, you might have trouble with rabbits and other pests getting at your garden carrots. Most bugs, such as the carrot weevil, can be deterred by simple crop rotation, but sometimes sprays and dusts will help if needed.
When it comes to rodents and live pests, there are a number of options. Several readers have sworn by the use of those shiny silver pinwheels in their gardens to ward off rabbits, raccoons and other pests. We’ve used pinwheels for two years now and find they work well for keeping animals out, even though we don’t currently fence our garden. A large chicken-wire fence is another option. Friends of ours have put up 6 foot chicken wire walls (held together by strategically placed 2×4’s) complete with an entrance door to protect their large and abundant garden. It works well for keeping out the many animals they see on their property, including bears. Other options for animal control in your garden: try sprinkling bloodmeal or pepper on or around your plants. And if necessary, set live traps to trap animals, release them in some far away unpopulated area.
Carrots grow best when planted near green beans (bush or pole), lettuce, onion, peas, radish, sage and tomatoes. The only plant carrots don’t do well with is strawberry plants.
Carrots, because they’re so rich in Vitamin A, are a must-have in your garden and in your food preservation supply. Bonus: home-grown garden carrots are much sweeter and richer than store bought carrots, adding to the flavor in your meals.
Have you ever planted carrots in your garden? What’s your favorite carrot-containing recipe?
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