The nights bring frost, yet some of our vegetables are still at home in our garden. The tomatoes, cucumbers, and all other soft summer fruits and vegetables are past their season, but many of the calorie crops – the hearty root veggies – are simply sweetening up in the soil.
My husband pulled a carrot from the carrot barrel yesterday and it was impressively straight and large. From the sound of his excited chewing, I’d say it was good. Personally, I can only handle carrots that are drowned in ranch dressing (I’ve been finicky about these carotene missiles since I was a child). Even if I don’t like eating them, I enjoy growing them, poking dirt away from their “heads” to see how wide they are, and pulling them from the soil. Though the “perfect” ones are always great to harvest, the oddly-formed carrots bring a laugh every time (why do they always look like little naked dudes?).
But we can’t keep them in the ground forever. Along with the carrots, we still have beets, rutabaga and turnip chilling in our raised beds (the beds help – soil temps are warmer than in-ground).
Last year around this time, I had the pleasure of meeting a local woman who, with her husband and family, grow acres of fruits and vegetables year round, can much of the produce in a designated workspace behind their house, and store the hearty vegetables in their root cellar.
Their root cellar set-up was impressive. Barrels full of sawdust. Crates of carrots and sawdust stacked on each other, so they could remove a crate – once empty – and work their way down the stack.
Do you have vegetables from your garden that you’d like to store into the winter months? Or perhaps you participate in community-supported agriculture (CSA) and your local farm or co-op has started adding root veggies to your share lately?
Here’s a basic link-click class for you. These three lessons are a great start for considering what to do with your root vegetables.
1. Tips for Cold Storage, from Simple Bites
2. Building Barrel Root Cellar, a video
3. The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association’s fact sheet on storing garden vegetables
If you have any questions regarding cold storage or root cellaring, send me an email at email@example.com, and if I don’t have the answer, I’m willing to scour my resource library to find it for you.