Advice on Carrot Storage

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Carrot Storage


carrot storage 1 and 2

carrot storage 3 and 4

Above images courtesy of Grimmway Farms - The leading grower in the US

Image below - Carrot Museum Pyramid of Carrots - copyright World Carrot Museum

Carrot Museum Pyramid of carrots - copyright World Carrot Museum

During the first five months of storage, carrots will actually increase their Vitamin A content; and, if protected from heat or light, can hold their nutrient content for another two or three months. The crisp texture of carrots is the result of the cell walls being stiffened with the indigestible food fibres cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin.  

The trick to preserving the freshness of carrot roots is to minimize the amount of moisture they lose. Thick cored carrots store the best.

The main methods of storing carrots are:-

Refrigeration - Freezing - Microwaving - Canning (bottling) - Drying - Pickling - Underground root storage - Left in the ground.

Make Jam (Museum webpage here) or Marmalade (another Museum page!)

Also read the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning, 2009 revision - here. 

Preparation - Fresh Carrots - First remove the greens as soon as possible as they draw away moisture from the root. Tightly seal unwashed carrots in a plastic bag in the coolest part refrigerator. Wash just before using, since the added moisture in the bag could cause spoilage. Carrots begin to go limp once exposed to air.

Perhaps the best way to enjoy freshly picked carrots is to eat them raw, or simply steam or boil them. For tender, young carrots,  just scrub them well before taking either approach. Larger carrots, can have a tough skin and have too strong a flavour.  Try to resist peeling as much of the goodness is in, or close to, the skin.

Depending on how fresh your carrots are they should last about 10 days and probably longer. Ideally growing your own is the way to go as they are very easy with many varieties suiting patio tubs and the traditional large garden variety. This means you can simply pick all you need and leave the rest in the ground.  If you are limited on space or motivation buy the freshest you can find.

Carrots should also be stored away from apples, pears, potatoes and other fruits and vegetables that produce ethylene gas since it will cause them to become bitter. Read more here (pdf)

Refrigeration - Carrots can keep in the refrigerator for up to two or three months if properly prepared for storage. Remove all the green stubble to prevent the carrot from rotting. (carrot leaves left attached draw moisture from the root and dry it out quickly). Allow the carrot outer skin to dry in sun for a day or so. Do not wash until ready to use carrot. Place carrots into refrigerator.

Some people recommend that you should line the vegetable drawer at the bottom of the fridge with a thick layer of absorbent kitchen paper. This will keep the carrots fresher for a much longer time. Make sure the carrots are dry before putting them in the fridge, especially if you buy them in plastic bags. Check on the paper once or twice per week. If it's damp then line it with dry paper and you can just dry out the old paper and use it again next time. No need to throw it away each time. Carrots give off a lot of moisture in the fridge and it's important to keep them dry. If you are buying really fresh carrots with the greenery intact  remember to remove them as soon as possible. They will keep longer this way.

A second cooling method - In a bowl of water - put the carrots in a large bowl so that there is at least 1-inch of headroom between the top of the carrots and the rim of the bowl. Fill the bowl with clean (ideally filtered) water. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or its sealable lid and place in the refrigerator. Change out water once a day. Carrots will keep fresh and superbly crunchy for up to a week this way. This is not recommended for longer term storage (no more than 2/3 weeks), as the carrots can go slimy, have an unpleasant smell and lose flavour.

A third method - The fridge is the most popular place to store carrots, and fortunately, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Carrots will stay firm and garden-fresh in the fridge for up to a month—but that doesn’t mean you can chuck that produce bag in the crisper drawer and call it a day. Carrots have a habit of drying out, but the problem is easily solved with a little water. As soon as you bring those bright-orange babies home, put them in a plastic container filled with water so they are completely submerged. Note: If your carrots came with the green tops attached, be sure to cut those off first—the stems suck water away from the taproot (i.e., the part you eat) and will make your carrots go soft unless removed. Once your carrots are soaking, put a lid on the Tupperware to create an airtight seal and store them in the fridge away from other fruits and veggies, which will cause them to spoil sooner. Follow these guidelines and your carrots will stay firm and crunchy for up to four weeks—just be sure to change the water every four to five days or they might get gross before you can get to them. 

Microwaving - Research has shown that microwave blanching is not always an effective method, as some enzymes may not be inactivated. This could result in low-quality frozen vegetables with off-colours, off-flavours and poor texture. If blanching is done in a microwave oven, follow individual manufacturer's instructions. Microwave blanching does not save time or energy.
How to successfully microwave carrots. Here is how we do it. Take a suitable dish which has a removable cover, we use a pirex dish and lid (which is microwave, heat proof glassware). Take about a pound of carrots (half kilo) and put them in the dish. These can be whole carrots or sliced it makes no difference. Boil some water in a kettle and pour the boiling water over the carrots to cover them, then immediately pour off the water leaving the carrots still wet and the merest hint of water in the bottom of the dish. Put the lid on then Microwave at full power for about 8 minutes. This works every time.

Home Freezingtwin carrot -

Carrots, like most vegetables, need to be blanched before freezing. Vegetables that are frozen without having been blanched are safe to eat, but have "off" colours, textures and flavours, and nutrient loss.  

What blanching does is stop enzymatic activity that decays vegetables. These enzymes naturally occur in vegetables helping them grow and ripen. They continue to act after harvest Freezing slows down the action of enzymes and can survive freezing temperatures and continue the decaying process even though the food is frozen. Pre-treating the food in boiling water or steam kills off the enzymes.

To freeze carrots they must be blanched, the best way to blanch carrots is in boiling water. Use a blancher with a basket and cover, or fit a wire basket into a large kettle with a lid.  Blanching (scalding vegetables in boiling water or steam for a short time) is a must for almost all vegetables to be frozen. Blanching slows or stops enzyme action which can cause loss of flavour, colour and texture.   The youngest and most tender carrots freeze the best.

Use one gallon of water per pound of prepared vegetable. Using these proportions, the water should continue to boil when vegetables are lowered into the water. Put the carrots in the blanching basket and lower into vigorously boiling water. Place a lid on the blancher. Start counting blanching time as soon as the water returns to a boil. Time for whole Carrots is minimum of 5 minutes.

Keep the heat high so that water continues to boil throughout the blanching process. Select young, tender, coreless, medium length carrots. Remove tops, wash and peel. Leave small carrots whole. Cut others into thin slices, ¼-inch cubes or lengthwise strips.

Water blanch small whole carrots for 5 minutes, diced or sliced 2 minutes and lengthwise strips take 2 minutes.

Cool promptly drain and place in plastic containers, leaving ½-inch head space. Seal and freeze as soon as possible.

Research has shown that microwave blanching is not always an effective method, as some enzymes may not be inactivated. This could result in low-quality frozen vegetables with off-colours, off-flavours and poor texture. If blanching is done in a microwave oven, follow individual manufacturer's instructions. Microwave blanching does not save time or energy.

How long can they be frozen? It depends upon how cold is your freezer and how you packed them.  Colder (deep freezes) are better than frost free compartments, which actually cycle above freezing (that's how they melt the ice).  Vacuum packing results in longer storage capability, too.  Thicker bags also help prevent freezer burn.

In general, up to 9 months in a "ziploc" bag in an ordinary freezer, and 14 months in a deep freeze in a vacuum packed bag.  After that, the carrots won't make you sick; they just won't taste as good.

Harvest the carrots at its peak maturity but not old - they get tough and fibrous; younger is better than older. Process promptly after harvesting, or keep cooled in the fridge or with ice until then. If your frozen carrots go rubbery after being cooked, generally it's because the carrots were either old to begin with, or they were overcooked.  It only takes 2 to 5 minutes to blanch the carrots, then plunge them immediately into ice water.

Canning (or bottling) - Canned carrots must be processed in a pressure canner. Do not can in a water bath canner. To can carrots safely follow these simple instructions;
1. Select small carrots, preferably 1 to 1 1/4 inch in diameter. Large carrots are often too fibrous. Wash, peel and rewash carrots. Slice or dice.
2. Hot Pack -- Cover carrots with water and bring to a boil. Simmer 5 minutes. Pack into hot jars, leaving 1-inch head space. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt to pints; 1 teaspoon to quarts, if desired.
3. Fill jars to 1 inch from top with boiling water.
4. Remove air bubbles. Wipe jar rims. Adjust two piece lids and process.
5. Process in a Dial Gauge Pressure Canner at 11 pounds pressure or in a Weighted Gauge Pressure Canner at 10 pounds pressure: pints for 25 minutes and quarts for 30 minutes.

Pickling - Another great way of preserving excess carrots is to pickle them, usually in vinegar.

Vinegar is an extremely acidic liquid (Acetic Acid). Acetic acid is a general preservative inhibiting many species of bacteria, yeasts and to a lesser extent moulds

Very few micro-organisms (ie bacteria and fungus which cause foods to spoil) can survive in such an acidic environment. Vinegar changes the pH value to prevent the enzymes in the micro-organisms from working.

Among other effects, it can destroy their cell walls, and prevent their own enzymes working (enzymes are extremely pH sensitive).

There are a small number of micro-organisms which are adapted to survive in extreme acidity. However, this adaptation prevents them from surviving in more 'normal' environments. Therefore, anything which can survive in the vinegar, will not likely survive on your kitchen surface, and the same is true the other way around.

Therefore, as virtually nothing can colonise whatever is in the vinegar, the food will be very effectively preserved.

Try these recipes. These pickled carrots make a wonderful condiment with curry, and add a tangy, sweet and sour note to salads.

Pickling Recipe 1


8 oz. carrots, peeled and cut into match sticks about 2" long
1 tbsp. coarse salt
1 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp. light brown sugar
crushed red chilli pepper flakes, to taste

Place the carrots in a bowl and toss with the salt. Allow to sit for 1 hour. Drain well.
Meanwhile, combine the vinegar, brown sugar, and chilli flakes in a small saucepan. Heat over moderate heat until the sugar dissolves. Allow to cool to room temperature.
Add the vinegar mixture to the carrots and toss well. Allow to marinate for 1-2 hours before serving, or store covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Yield: about 1-1/2 cups.

Pickling Recipe 2

Carrot and cucumber pickle

Ingredients 2 carrots, cut into juliennes 2 cucumbers, deseeded and cut into strips 2-3 green chillies, deseeded and chopped ¼ tsp turmeric powder ¼ tsp asafoetida ½ tsp mustard seeds 1 tsp lime juice 1 tsp mustard or sesame oil Salt and sugar, to taste.

Procedure Take a large glass or stainless steel bowl and add the cucumber strips, carrot juliennes, chopped green chillies, lime juice, salt and sugar. Mix it all well and set aside for 15 to 20 minutes. Then drain the water from the vegetables. Heat the oil and add the mustard seeds, asafoetida and turmeric powder. Once the mustard seeds start to splutter, turn off the heat, and add the oil and tempered spices to the carrot and cucumber mix. Toss everything together well and serve immediately. This pickle can be refrigerated for up to five days. Make sure to store it in a stainless steel container or glass jar.


Carrot Preserve, Carrot Pickle, Carrots in Syrup

How to Dry Carrots  - Carrots are incredibly easy to dry! Simply top & tail the carrots & then wash & peel. Chop the carrots into 2-4mm slices and then place on the trays of your Ezidri, making sure the pieces aren't touching. Dehydrate at 55 deg C (Snackmaker - Medium) for 10 hours.

You can also choose to grate your carrots & create your own dehydrated carrot flakes. These should take between 6 & 10 hours to dry, and should be placed on Mesh Sheets.

Carrots are 88% water so they will reduce in size considerably. You may want to condense the trays a few hours into the drying process. When ready, the carrots should be crisp to the touch with no visible signs of moisture.

Dried carrots can be used directly in recipes where they will absorb a lot of water. Another great idea is to place the dried carrot pieces into a food processor and make into a fine powder which is delicious in soups, casseroles, drinks & more. Included in this section is several recipes which make use of Carrot powder - make sure you check them out!

To store your carrot pieces, flakes or powder, place in an airtight container in a cool, dry, dark place.

Underground root cellar - For extended fresh storage of carrots, use underground root storage. Prepare the carrots like you're going to store them in the refrigerator. Then pack into containers surrounded by straw or moist sand or sawdust for keeping in any outdoor storage pit or root cellar. Place them in an area just above 32 degrees Fahrenheit with 95 percent humidity.

Traditionally, this was done in a pit or clamp with a layer of straw and soil on top, along with potatoes. The clamp keeps the roots cool and slightly moist too. If an old fridge is available, it makes a very good store. Plastic bags with holes are quite good too, but the roots must have cool conditions or they will sprout. Storage in sand and soil is sometimes recommended but this can create earthy, woody off-flavours in carrots.  Do NOT store near apples!

The method of preserving the root vegetables was known as 'clamping' and it involved storing the vegetables in what was known as a 'clamp'. The principles were:

How to Store Carrots in a House Cellar

If you want to save space in your fridge and have access to a basement or cellar, you can stick your carrots down there instead. Carrots will happily live in a cool, dark space for up to six months. You don’t need water for this method—simply place unwashed carrots (green tops removed) in a large bucket and cover them with sand. This option isn’t as convenient as the fridge but it’s ideal for longer-term storage.

Sand boxes - If you have the space, say in a cool garage, try the sand box method -

An easy alternative for small-to-medium quantities of root vegetables is to lift them before the first frosts (except for parsnips, as mentioned above) and store them in boxes under controlled conditions. To do this you’ll need a cool (but not freezing), dark shed or cellar and a supply of suitable boxes or tubs. Strong, lidded plastic ones are best because they are rodent-proof and will last indefinitely: wooden boxes or crates look great, but only last for a few seasons and are quickly targeted by mice and rats. You’ll also need a packing material such as moist peat-free compost or horticultural (sharp) sand, to keep the roots separate (which helps to prevent rot spreading) and prevent moisture loss.

Lift the roots as carefully as possible. Cut or twist the foliage off them close to the crown, being careful not to damage the root itself. Brush off any excess soil but DO NOT WASH THE ROOTS. Washed roots may look nice, but they do not keep as well as muddy ones.

Sort the roots into two piles: perfect ones and ones with any visible cuts, splits or signs of rot. The imperfect ones should be used up promptly, or cut back to sound flesh and dried, pickled or frozen.

Take the perfect roots to their boxes in the storage area. Don’t take the boxes to the roots, unless you’re happy to carry them when they’re full!

Cover the bottom of the storage boxes or tubs with a layer of the compost or sand. On top of this, place a layer of perfect roots, crown-to-tail so that as little space as possible is wasted. Ideally, they shouldn’t quite touch.

Cover the roots with another layer of compost or sand, and repeat until the box is full, topping with another layer of compost or sand, and put the lids on.

Be sure that the carrots are not stored in very damp conditions as they are likely to get Sclerotinia rot – a fluffy fungus that causes them to become black and hard.

How to store Carrots (from World War Two pamphlet - but still relevant!) Official leaflet here.Carrot Clamp for storage

The secret of storing carrots is in lifting them (pulling them up) in good condition. Lift them during dry weather, not later than the middle of October. Reject all blemished carrots and all damaged or forked roots. It is not necessary to clean them, but be careful to see they are quite dry.

You will need a dry shed for your storing, if possible with a stone or concrete floor, and some slightly moist sand. If you cannot get sand, earth taken from the top of the ground, shaken through a very fine sieve and slightly moistened, is the best substitute.

Lay alternate rows of carrots and sand (or earth) either on the ground, in pyramid shape, or in boxes. Cover your pyramid or box with sand (or earth). Put over it a layer of straw as a safeguard against frost. The carrots should be stored crown to tail in rows. Use the carrots as you require them, but take care that the remaining pile is always well covered. It is a wise plan to rebuild your pyramid at least once during the winter. Image above right is reproduced courtesy of the excellent website "Join me in the 1900's'" - here

Shakers - 1843

Directions for preserving vegetables in the winter were printed in the 1843 edition of The Gardener's Manual, published by the United Society (Shakers). The method is similar to others of the nineteenth century, although the "circular" form described was unique to the Shakers:

Beets and carrots should be gathered before hard frost in the Fall, the tops cut off and the roots packed away in sand in a warm cellar. A good method of preserving Beets and Carrots fresh through the Winter is, to lay them in a circular form on the bottom of the cellar, with the roots in the centre and heads outward; cover the first course of roots with sand; then lay another course upon them, and cover with sand as before, and so on until all are packed and covered. The sand for Carrots should be very dry or they will rot; for Beets it may be moist, but not wet. Celery is preserved in the same way. Onions and Turnips keep well on scaffolds, or in barrels, in a dry cool cellar. (The Gardener's Manual, 1843)

The brief history of carrots grown in the US in the nineteenth century explains how they came to be grown in the United States (pdf -  Source - The Heirloom Vegetable Garden, Cornell Cooperative Extension Information bulletin 177). (references in pdf text - 2. Burr, Fearing, Jr. The Field and Garden Vegetables of America. Boston, 1865. 3. Burr, Fearing, Jr. Garden Vegetables and How to Cultivate Them. Boston, 1866.

Left in the ground - Carrots can also be left for storage in the ground where they grew. Leaving in the ground is an option but roots left in the ground too long can become woody and are prone to cracking.

To store carrots for winter in the ground you need to heavily mulch the bed where the carrots are growing with straw or leaves. Leave the carrot tops intact.  Make sure that the mulch is pushed securely against the tops of the carrots. The mulch should be at least 6 inches deep. Also this works best if you have free draining soil.

However be careful that when you are over wintering carrots in the ground, the carrot tops will eventually die off in the cold.

The carrot root below will be just fine and will taste fine, probably sweeter as carrot do sweeten in cold conditions.. After the tops die you may have trouble finding the carrot roots. So I would advise that you mark the locations of the carrots before you mulch.

To make winter digging easier cover the rows with leaves or straw then a layer of plastic then another layer of leaves or straw. The plastic keeps the bottom layer of mulch dry to make it easier to dig the carrots when ground is frozen. Make the top layer of mulch a foot deep and weight it down to prevent the leaves or straw from blowing away. Carrots will keep this way for up to 6 months. Be sure to dig carrots in the spring before warmer weather causes carrots to begin to grow again. Store in refrigerator when warmer weather comes.

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