Friday, November 3, 2023

Pro Tips for Harvesting Carrots

Freshly Harvested Carrots

Carrots can be a pain in the butt to harvest, especially when your soil is mostly clay, such as on the Front Range in Colorado.  If the soil is too dry then it's way too easy to break the carrots in half, ruining the entire carrot or worse...  ripping the greens off the top of the carrot...locking the carrot into the deep grasps of the soil until the end of time.  Or until it decomposes back into the ground anyways.  There are some tips to avoid all of this and make harvesting carrots a breeze.

To see if your carrots are ready to harvest, put your finger where the carrot top greens go into the ground and clear the soil away to expose the top of the carrot.  This allows you to see how wide the carrot is and thus an educated guess as to if the carrot is ready to harvest or not.  Do this on a few carrots and if a few look wide enough, pull one of them out of the ground and see how long they are and how tasty they are.  It's always a good idea to pull a test carrot or two before you harvest all of them.

Once you've determined your carrots are ready to harvest, you have two options:  wait until it rains or water the carrots really good the night before harvest day.  Out here, rainy days are generally far and few between so I only use that option if there's a good chance of rain in the immediate future of when I want to harvest otherwise it can be weeks if not months before the next substantial rain.  Watering the carrots down is easy enough to do anyways.

If it rains, then the next day get on out there and start harvesting.  If going the watering route, the night before harvest day, get out there and water all of the carrots down really well.  You want the ground to be very well watered to loosen and lube up the carrots properly.

Then the next day, get out there nice and early with a weeder tool.  Grab the very tip top of the carrot, directly below the carrot top greens (don't grab the greens themselves), between your pointer finger and thumb and gentle wiggle the carrot back and forth.  If it feels like it's wiggling pretty easily then start pulling the carrot up as you wiggle and it should come right on out.

If the carrot is not budging at all, take your weeder tool and put it in the ground outside the edge of the top of the carrot and gently bend it back and forth and side to side to loosen up the soil.  Do this on all four sides of the carrot.  You have to be careful with this, if you put the weeder tool too close to the carrot and move it too much or too abruptly then you'll damage the carrot.  Conversely if the weeder tool is too far away from the carrot then it won't loosen up the carrot at all.  It's a bit of a fine art fine tuning this technique based on the soil, climate, weather, and size of the carrots.  Once the soil around the carrot has been loosened then go back to wiggling the top of previously stubborn carrot and it should start moving around much easier, then just pull it right on out.  If the carrot is still being stubborn then go back to loosening the dirt around the carrot.  With the bigger carrots it can sometimes take a few soil loosening attempts before the clay finally decides to release its firm grasp on your bounty.

Don't grab the carrot greens, you'll rip them right on off which then makes it significantly harder to get the carrot out of the ground.  Not impossible, but much harder.  It's inevitable to accidentally rip a few greens off though, I usually just leave those carrots in the ground to decompose back in and feed the soil.  Sometimes they'll keep growing the next season and you'll suddenly find yourself with carrot seeds!  Either way it's a win-win situation for everyone involved!

You can certainly try and harvest the carrots out of the bone-dry soil if you want to attempt it, I don't recommend it, but it can be done.  However it will result in a significantly longer time to get the carrots harvested and the vast majority of your carrots are going to be broken in half and/or damaged.  Trust me, I've been there and done that.  Water the ground down instead, you'll be glad you did.

Happy Harvesting!

Pro Tip & Side Hustle Idea:  Make pesto out of your carrot top greens then sell that pesto at your local farmers market.  Most everyone throws out their carrot top greens but you can be smart and can sell those very same people a product made out of their very own trash.  Boo Yeah!

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