If you have successfully mastered the art of growing carrots, you may have a surplus in some places during the season. That is why it is important to know how to store carrots from the garden so that you can enjoy the fruits of your labor for many weeks and months.
Carrots are one of the most fun vegetables to grow! Both kids and adults love to eat them, they are great to harvest, they can be eaten raw or cooked, and they come in many colors of the rainbow.
And because carrots are quick and easy to keep, there really aren’t too many carrots. At least in our house!
I was harvesting carrots from my garden in zone 5 by December, storing them using the method outlined below, and still using them fresh the next April and May.
That is over 6 months of storage!
If you have a bumper crop this season, rest assured that you don’t have to throw away all of those lovely carrots (unless you want to …), you can follow the steps below to store carrots from the garden.
You will never have to say “I grew too many carrots.” once again.
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How to quickly store carrots for the winter (or anytime!)
Carrots planted in spring
Many gardeners start planting carrots in the spring. Carrots are a frost hardy vegetable that can be planted about four weeks before the average last frost. I plant mine in zone 5 around the first or second week of April.
Carrots take anywhere from 60 to 100 days to grow to harvest size, so carrots planted in spring are generally harvested during the summer months.
You can harvest a carrot of any size you want. If you like really small and thin carrots, like the ones you might get in a fine dining restaurant, then this is the size you can dig them up. I prefer mine to be bigger but not so big that they get woody.
To see if the carrots are ready to harvest, go to the garden bed and dig around with your finger where the carrot tip meets the earth to see how big the carrot root has become.
When it looks like it’s time to start harvesting, drag a or two to check their size. Keep in mind that different strains take different amounts of time to grow to mature size.
It is very easy to break carrots while harvesting. I recommend carefully loosening the soil around the rows with a digging fork until you can carefully pull the carrots out of the soil.
If you want, you can gradually harvest your carrots when you are ready to eat them. They will keep growing if left in the garden, so be careful not to leave them in for too long or you will end up with monster roots!
You can plant carrots up to around 10-12 weeks before the average first frost in autumn. This is known as follow-up planting, and carrots are perfect candidates for summer planting.
In my garden, my fall planting of carrots usually takes place in mid to late July. I grow a lot of onions and garlic, so I’ll fill up part of this space with carrots after the July harvest.
I love growing fall carrots because they can hang out in the garden for a long time – even into my Wisconsin winter. The cold weather and frost sweeten them so that they taste delicious.
And in the fall they don’t grow as fast as the days get shorter then, so you can leave them in the garden for a long time and not be afraid of them getting huge.
In fact, for most years I leave my carrots in the garden beds until the ground freezes. They will turn to mush if you freeze the soil around them, so make sure you harvest all of the bed before this happens. I’m usually out in my garden in early December digging up the last of the carrots through a light blanket of snow.
You can harvest them for cooking and eating as needed, but feel free to leave the rest in the garden bed.
>> If you’re still struggling with your technique, read more about how to grow carrots.
Instructions for storing carrots from the garden
Summer or fall, when you’re ready to harvest them, here’s how to store carrots from the garden.
Step 1: harvest
Harvest any carrots that are a ripe size. Remember, unless the soil freezes, you can leave smaller carrots in the ground to continue growing.
Brush any excess soil back into the garden bed. I like to harvest mine in a box for easy transport.
Step 2: gather supplies
Grab a pair of secateurs or secateurs and a couple of plastic bags. You can use plastic bags, make bags, or any other plastic bag you have nearby.
Step 3: remove greens
Remove the green from the carrots by cutting it with secateurs (my favorite!) Pretty close to the tip of the carrot root.
Step 4: store or compost greens
Carrot greens are edible, although I have to admit that I usually just compost it. Try Love and Lemons Carrot Greens Chimichurri or Carrot Top Pesto.
Optional step: drying carrots
If your carrots are wet and muddy, maybe because it has rained recently or you have heavy soil, you may want to lay them out to dry before storing them.
Spread newsprint or a tarp in a location that will not be exposed to the elements and frost, in a heated garage or in your basement. Lay out the carrots to dry in a single layer overnight, then continue with the remaining steps.
Don’t leave them outside too long or they will go limp!
Step 5: load into sacks
Transfer the carrots to the plastic bags with the Earth on. This is an important step! Do not wash your carrots before storing them. Many vegetables have a layer of wax that protects them, and if you scrub them off with washing, you endanger their shelf life.
If you’re only storing a small amount of carrots for a short time, it’s safe to wash them.
Step 6: create air holes
Poke a few small holes in the bags to allow moisture and moisture to escape. I’ve found this to keep the carrots drier so they will last longer.
Step 7: store carrots
Make some space in a back corner of your fridge and bring the carrot bags there. I usually store my beet harvest in the back of the bottom shelf so it doesn’t get in the way.
A common question I get when speaking about it in workshops is: “Do you have two fridges?”. Not me. I have a lot of space in my fridge for vegetables. In fact, that’s all we have in there except for a few spices. If your refrigerator is bursting, it may be time to clean it up.
I find that a minimalist refrigerator helps me avoid food waste and keep track of what’s actually in it so I can use it up. There are only two of us in our household, that helps too.
Step 8: clean up as you need them
If you need carrots for a recipe, take a serving out of the bag, scrub it in a bowl of water, and use it. I usually dump the dirty water on our compost heap instead of sending the soil down the drain. Dead easy!
Step 9: check the carrots in stock
The final critical step in learning how to store carrots from the garden is to remember to check them regularly to make sure none of them are rotting and infecting the rest of the bag. This situation can get pretty gross very quickly. Ever smelled a bag of rotten carrots? Eew.
How long can carrots keep?
I used this method to store carrots until April and May of the following year. In late winter or early spring, the carrots sometimes start sprouting again from above. That’s not great because it means the greens draw energy from the root as it grows. This is a good time to make a plan for using up the remaining carrots.
If you’re wondering how to store beets, a very similar method to this can be used.
If you like the idea of using your own local, healthy, organic ingredients for cooking throughout the season, I highly recommend growing additional vegetables that are easy to store (like carrots) and can be used in all kinds of recipes.
Now that you know how to store carrots from the garden, you can expand that knowledge and focus on other foods that you can easily preserve, such as: Throughout the winter you will save yourself a lot of trips to the grocery store and save money in the process. What’s not to love about it?
Additional resources for easy food preservation and storage
FREE MINI COURSE: Start stocking your pantry for the winter. On a cold winter evening, there is nothing better than using products that you have stored yourself during the growing season.
This mini-course contains 5 videos + worksheets to help you:
- Deconstruct your favorite dishes to prioritize food preservation
- Discover 4 quick and easy options for canning food (except canned!)
- Discover delicious ideas to present your canned food in healthy recipes all winter long
Start Watching Now!
MASTER CLASS: Fill your pantry from your garden.
This winter, imagine getting all the ingredients you need for a meal straight from your pantry without going to the grocery store. With a few simple techniques, you can continue to enjoy food from your own garden (or bought at the farmers market) during the long, cold winter months.
In this course, you’ll learn how to make each harvest last longer by quickly and easily canning vegetables at the height of their season. You’ll love the feeling of sitting down to a meal knowing that a lot of it comes from your yard!
Take the master class now!
Want more quick and easy food preservation ideas?
In this book I will show you how you can use your basement, fridge and freezer to eat from your garden 12 months a year. Check it out here.