Simply Resourceful

Simple ways to be more conscious about how we use our resources.

Storing Carrots in Boxes For the Winter

"Our children should enter adulthood with a basic knowledge of how to store food over winter without the cooperation of a nuclear power plant (or coal, or hydropower, etc.).  Every animal in the forest is taught this skill; we owe our children no less."   by: Jerry Minnich


This year I started exploring a broader view of preserving food now that we have a basement and the winters are cooler here.  As much as I enjoy looking at vegetables and fruits through the hundreds of jars I fill every year, I would like to minimize my carbon footprint and minimize the energy use that goes into canning.  I borrowed several books at the library about keeping a root cellar and I listed my two favorites below and included a general review of each book.  Besides basic squash, potatoes, garlic, and onions, I wanted to go a little further this year and try keeping fresh carrots.  We don't know the average temperature and humidity levels in this new house so we started small and kept a few dozen carrots in a cardboard box to see how it goes.  Here's how to do it:

1. Dig up the carrots carefully on a dry day, shake off the excess soil, and twist off the tops.  Don't scrub or wash the carrots, as this may damage the skin.  Examine each carrot and set aside any that are damaged to use immediately.

2. Choose a shallow cardboard box, wooden box, or crate.  Line the bottom with newspaper, or similar material, and put a thin layer of spent compost, moist sand, coir, untreated sawdust, vermiculite, or leaf mold in the bottom.

3. Arrange the carrots side by side, without touching, on the covering material.  Position the carrots so that they lie head to toe.

4. Hide the vegetables with more covering material and repeat until the container is full.  Finish with a layer of covering material to exclude light.  Store in a cool, preferably dark place such as a garage, cellar, or spare room for 2 months or more  Use as required, ensuring the remaining vegetables are kept covered.

Ideally carrots require 32-40 degrees F and 90-95% relative humidity for storage.

We used sawdust and shavings that came from the love seat we made this summer.  It's aspen wood that we collected ourselves from the woods so we know it's untreated.

First layer...notice that the carrots are not touching.

More sawdust and shavings covering each row.

Results: I only put about 3 dozen carrots in the box because I didn't know how successful this method would be and I didn't want to waste any carrots.  The carrots were picked the second week of September and the box was empty by the first week of October.  The temperatures were still in the 70's throughout the month of September so it never really got cold.  Overall the carrots stayed relatively firm for the 3 weeks they were in the box.  The smaller ones got a little rubbery but they were still usable.  Next time I will use larger carrots and plant the seeds later in summer so they can be harvested when the temperatures are cooler.  The sawdust also felt warm to me so next time I will try sand or another material that stays cooler. 

Books:

Preserve It! by: Lynda Brown  This book is a great introduction on different preserving methods: canning, drying, freezing, smoking, brewing, salting, and natural cold storage.  For a more in-depth book, I recommend the following:

Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits and Vegetables by: Mike and Nancy Bubel
This book is a must-have if you are really serious about keeping food throughout the winter using natural cold storage methods.  The book is very thorough about when and how to grow and harvest vegetables and fruits; which varieties keep best throughout the winter; storage requirements for your edibles; ways even an apartment and city dweller can use natural storage methods; how to build a variety of different types of root cellars; testimonies and building plans of people who use root cellars; and recipes for your cellar crop!


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A weekly update on our adventures of trying to be more self-sufficient by using resources wisely. We explore a variety of topics that most broadly fit in the "Homesteading" category, i.e. beekeeping, organic gardening, edible landscaping/fruit forest, food preservation/canning, woodworking, soap-making, and environmental stewardship.

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