How to Harvest and Store Carrots

Carrots in the gardenHarvest carrots when they develop their color and the tops are 1 inch in diameter or smaller. Carrots can be lifted as soon as they are a usable size.

Carrots are ready for harvest 60 to 90 days after sowing depending upon the variety; they will continue to grow and enlarge if you leave them in the ground–but they usually do not get tastier and may get bitter.

When to Harvest Carrots

• The best way to know when your carrot crop is ready for harvest is to lift one or two every few days and taste them. Begin your harvest when roots are sweet.

• Carrots planted for summer harvest should be pulled frequently once they are sweet.

• Carrots grown for fall and winter harvest can be left in the ground until you are ready to use them. (Once the weather grows cold, carrots will not continue to grow significantly.) But if you live where the ground freezes, you should harvest your crop soon after the first heavy frost unless you can protect them.

• If you have carrots in the ground when a hot spell or hot weather arrives for the summer, it is best to lift the whole crop; heat can cause carrots to be bitter flavored. Spot check and sample your crop every few days; harvest if the heat causes sweetness to subside.

• The best time of day to lift carrots is in the late afternoon or early evening when sugar in the roots is concentrated.

Carrot harvest
Harvest carrots when they develop their color and the tops are 1 inch in diameter or smaller. Carrots can be lifted as soon as they are a usable size.

How to Harvest Carrots

• Harvest carrots by gently pulling or lifting them from the soil; if they don’t pull free easily, loosen the soil surrounding the roots with a hand fork. Jerking or tugging carrots can break the roots.

• Wash the roots and remove the leafy tops before storing; leaving the greens attached will draw moisture and flavor from the roots. Damaged or bruised roots should be eaten soon after harvest; they will not keep well.

Carrots to store
Nantes carrots. Carrots stored in cold moist conditions will keep for 4 to 6 months.

How to Store Carrots

Store carrots in a perforated plastic bag in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator. That will keep carrots cold and moist (32°-40°F/0°-4°C and 95 percent relative humidity). A refrigerator provides the cold, but will also have dry air. Placing carrots in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator creates a cold and moist environment.

Carrots can be stored for winter use several ways:

  • Store carrots in the ground during cool winter months unless a freeze is expected; if frost is predicted and the roots can’t be protected, dig them up and store them elsewhere. If carrots stay in the ground all winter, harvest them before new top growth starts in spring. Roots stored in the ground through winter should be eaten very soon after harvest; they will not keep well.
  • Store carrots in the ground where the soil freezes if the ground can be insulated from freezing cold. Keep the soil at 35° to 40°F by putting a 10- to a 12-inch-thick layer of hay, leaves, or straw mulch over the rows; extend the mulch on both sides of each row by another 18 inches or more. This should protect roots even beneath two feet of snow. Dig roots through the winter as needed.
  • Store carrots in a root cellar or basement or in a garage where the temperature is about 32°-38°F during the winter; store roots in a bucket or wooden box filled with either sand, peat moss, or sawdust; pack the roots so that they are standing upright or vertical and insulated and covered and do not touch one another; some moist air must be able to circulate so don’t completely seal the container. Before storing the carrots, allow the skins to cure or dry a few days before storing them in the root cellar. Do not wash the carrots before storing; simply brush away any soil.

Carrots stored in cold moist conditions will keep for 4 to 6 months.

Carrots exposed to very cold temperatures will become bitter tasting. Carrots left in the ground too long will be touch, woody, and may crack.

Check roots during storage and remove those that begin to deteriorate.

More tips: How to Grow Carrots.

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    • There are several grades of sand you can get at the home improvement store or hardware store. Ask for washed sand or playground sand; these should be free of builders debris or chemicals that you would not want to store edibles in.

  1. we harvested a about 100lbs of carrots this august here in nebraska, stored them in a wooden box. layered with sand. now 3 weeks later the entire box rotted into mush. what did we do wrong?

    • Allow the carrots to cure or dry for a few days before storing them in dry or just moist sand. Do not wash them before storing; simply brush away any soil. Stand them up vertically in the sand, about an inch apart surrounded by sand so that air can circulate. Store them in a very cool dry place.

  2. I still have several carrots to harvest but I’ve noticed that they are starting to pop further up out of the soil now and looking abit green around the tops(shoulders) are they starting to go rotten? or are they still ok to harvest and store? probably in the fridge as you advise above

    • The shoulders are turning green after being exposed to sunlight. You can mound up soil over the shoulders of carrots to slow the greening of shoulders. The green tissue will be bitter to taste.

    • Twisting off the tops is the best course; it crushes and seals the green plant cells which in turn slows moisture from the roots via the green tops.

    • Dry cedar or pine sawdust can be used as a mulch or to ward off some insects. It can also be used to amend the soil. Be sure the wood was not treated before using the sawdust.

    • Store the carrots in a cool place, about 50F or cooler–but above freezing (this will slow moisture evaporation); the sand should be moist, but not wet.

  3. I put my carrots in sand in an old cooler. The sand was straight out of the bag and was very moist. My carrots are now starting to sprout. Is my sand too wet?

    • The sand should not be wet; it can be damp. Be sure to cover the container with cardboard of a dark shade cloth; store the carrots in a dark place. Light can cause the roots to sprout.

  4. Hi. I bought a 1/2 bushel of carrots at the farmers market and wanted to try storing them over the winter. I don’t have a cold storage but I do have a garage. I get mice in my garage so I was wondering if I could use a metal can with a locking lid? Also should I trim any straggling roots off? Thanks for your advice.

    • Do not trim the straggling roots too close to the fleshy root; leave a bit. You can use a metal trash can to store root crops. One note, do not wash the vegetables before you store them. Soil is a barrier to rot and disease.

    • Pellets will allow more air to surround the carrots and the pellets would not hold moisture with the same consistency; this could lead to early rot. But, you can give it a try as long as the pellets have not been treated with chemicals.

  5. I livr in Canada lots of carrots I do not wash them I put them upright in perforated bags put them in a newspaper lined box in my garage at about 32 cover the box with an old comforter and have carrots all winter I put the box on a table against my inside wall attached to the house so it does get a little warmth from that but does not freeze

    • If soilborne pests or diseases are in the soil they could attack your carrots in storage. Typically clean peat moss or straw or sand is used. If you use soil, monitor the carrots for any signs of rot or pests.

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