Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Carrot Harvest Is In!

Taylor here filling in for Mary today.  So after much debate, we decided yesterday that we should pull up our carrot patch to make room for some new types of veggies.  Mary had planted some mixed kinds of carrots back in April that turned out to include both orange and yellow varieties.  Both are delicious but the yellow ones have a strong parsnip flavor to them.  Here's the basket of goodies fresh from the garden.

As for how to store our bumper crop I was going to research and build a root cellar under the house but alas, work takes too much time and I have too many unfinished projects already.  So instead I will freezing these beauties for future use in chicken stocks and on dinner plates.

Our Carrots Detopped (Is that a word?) and Scrubbed Down
 For those of you out there interested in growing carrots and freezing them like we do, here is a little info on the specifics.  The types we planted were Yellowstone (yellow) and Nantes Forto (Orange).  Seed spacing is 1/2" so you can really load them up in a bed like we did. 

Germination is 10-20 days so an easy way to start them in an already established garden is to sprinkle them over the row/bed mixed with some sand then cover them with burlap to retain moisture.  Water right through the burlap and pull it up when they start to germinate in two weeks or so.  This saves you from having to water them twice a day or more to keep them from drying out. 

Days to harvest is about 90 days so this a great set it and forget it crop you can have 4 times a year.  We probably pulled ours a little early this time so I'm excited to try another rotation soon.

For all things canning and freezing I rely on an old book that I got from my Grandmother.  Being a Great Depression survivor she understood the value of self-reliance and being able to put food by the way without having to rely on electricity to do it.  She has since merged with the Infinite but her knowledge is continued through me. 

The book I rely on and a great resource for any backyard homesteader is the Farm Journal's Freezing and Canning Cookbook published by Doubleday, ISBN # 0-385-13444-4.  My edition is ridiculously old having been published in 1978 so there is probably an updated edition available somewhere. 

This book is a magnum opus for all things canning and freezing (the two most realistic storage mediums for home crops).  It will teach you everything you need to know about these methods and has tons of yield tables and recipes to boot.  Here's what the FJ has to say about freezing carrots.

Carrots: Harvest smooth, tender carrots before roots are woody.  Plan plantings so you can harvest them in cool weather.  The small, immature roots often harvested in hot weather contain less carotene and they rarely are of good quality when frozen.  Remove tops, wash and scrape.  Dice or slice 1/4" thick.  Blanch 3 1/2 minutes.  Chill in cold running water or ice water; drain, package, label, date and freeze.

For those of you out there of the culinary persuasion this technique is known as clean, blanch and shock.  You do it for lots of veggies for a couple of reasons.  The cleaning is obviously but the blanching (dipped in boiling water) kills surface bacteria which would shorten storage time but it also deactivates certain ripening enzymes that would otherwise turn your produce to mush during storage.  You shock them (ice water bath) to keep them from overcooking and to set the skin.

Hope some of you find this info useful.  Now go out there and build a better world! :)

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