"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Harvesting Beets and Carrots

The first frost visited us this morning, pretty light though and much later than I thought it would be this season, nothing was damaged. We have been busy picking and packing our beets and carrots for storage before a hard freeze sets in. It was a decent year for most root vegetables and they all seem to be of fairly good size and shape...not too big and not too small, perfect for storage in the root cellar. Most of the unblemished beet greens were picked, blanched, and frozen for later use the day before we pulled the roots.

Our carrots, beets, parsnips, rutabagas, turnips, celeriac, scorzonera, salsify, sunchokes, and root parsley are all layered in between slightly damp soil in totes and coolers. They will remain in good condition for a long time this way. I just gave the remaining few beets from "last years" harvest to our chickens 2 days ago, they were still hard and perfectly edible over 12 months later. The chickens will slowly peck away at them as they begin to soften up.

These are Lutz beets that we grew for the first time this season, they are supposed to be a good storage beet that I learned about on Throwback at Trapper Creek's fine blog. After I took these pictures I also covered the top of these beets and carrots with a couple inches of soil.

This perfectly edible beet has been in storage for just over 12 months.

A Mammoth Red Mangle (beet) from our own saved seed. They are colored like Chioggia beets on the inside.

Bull's Blood beets are the grandson's favorite because they make his teeth look bloody. What can I say, we do what we can to get the lad to eat his veggies.:) He will eat them raw just like an apple. If you hill dirt over the roots of this variety they can be left in the ground to provide greens throughout the winter months.

My wife's favorite Flat of Egypt beets. Peering at us in the background, Gimpy, is back on garden patrol as she has once again injured her leg...or perhaps she is smarter than we think and just faking it.

My favorite Cylindrical beets grow well, taste great, and are easy to work with in the kitchen. They must be picked before a hard frost though as they do tend to stick up out of the ground quite a bit.

Giant Yellow Eckendorf can reportedly weigh up to 20 lbs, fortunately ours never get that big...what would we do with a 20 lb beet? I would only have to grow one or two.:)

Detroit Dark Red is a good all purpose beet that produces my favorite beet greens.

New to us this year, Crapaudine. For what it's worth, Baker Creek says - "In 1885, the French book, The Vegetable Garden stated this is one of the oldest varieties. Today some experts feel this may be the oldest beet still in existence, possibly dating back 1000 years. This unique variety is one of the most flavorful, with carrot-shaped roots that have rough, dark colored skin which looks like tree bark. Inside, the roots are very dark, with almost black flesh that is of superior quality and sought after by chefs who want real flavor. We are proud to offer this rare old selection."

This was one of the best years we have ever had for carrots. Our main storage varieties are Chantenay, Imperator, Danver Half Long, and Nantes.

Imperators are not the very best storage carrot but they always grow well in our loose soil.

We grew a variety of "novelty" purple, white, red, and yellow carrots this year too. The whites bolted, the purples struggled, but the Solar Yellow carrots may become a main crop carrot for us as they did so very well. I will have to see how they hold up in storage. I should mention that I found the reddish colored tops of the purple carrots so interesting that we incorporated them into many of our summer stir fry dishes...yes, you can eat carrot tops.:)

And last but not least here is a picture of some of the carrots I grew from our own seed. They are a cross between three different types that I re-planted and let go to seed last year. We ended up with a variety of shapes and sizes but nothing too special.


You Can Call Me Jane said...

Your carrots (and everything else) look beautiful! I especially love the shot looking down the row with all the carrots laid out. Thanks for showing us how you store them, too. We've got to get better at this carrot business.

And, about helping you all can this summer? The five of us showed up at your place back in August to help and no one was home;-). Maybe next year:-).

Malay-Kadazan girl said...

Hi Mr. H.,
Carrots that we grown has never had a chance to grow as big as yours. You make me think I should have let them grow bigger:) Since we have been successful this year with not buying any vegetables from the market, the carrots have to be harvest to give us food on the table when there is nothing much from our veggie patch. I like seeing your soil with the carrots row so suitable for carrots. Our soil here is still too hard for carrots to grow, we grow them in containers. I truely enjoy reading this post.

Anne said...

Gorgeous! You all are doing amazing and I hope more are inspired to follow in your footsteps!

tabitha said...

Amazing. I had to do a double take and see where in the USA you're living. We're in the rocky Missouri Ozarks... I love beets. And they grow well here, but carrots not so much. Nice to 'meet' you!


Annie*s Granny said...

What a lovely bumper crop of beets and carrots you had! My beets were a complete bust this year. The carrots did well, but I didn't plant enough, and my fall carrots were planted too late. I hope my timing is better next year.

kitsapFG said...

I took a pass this year on growing beets and have been regretting it this fall.... now that I see all those lovely varieties you have grown... I am REALLY regretting it! LOL! What a fine looking crop of carrots this year. I am totally impressed with how well your storage system holds the root crops. I may opt to go that route next year rather than hold so much in the ground. Perhaps I will do a half and half of each item and do a comparison.

By the way, over on my blog, I've invited you to participate in a "A day in the slow life" meme. It would be great if you could join in as I expect your "day in the slow life" would be a fascinating read.

Ms. Adventuress said...

This is just the best...I love watching and learning as you go. I now feel officially deprived, having never experienced so many varieties of all our standard lovely veggies. Who knew?!

Julie said...

Wow. Just Wow.

meemsnyc said...

Wow, I am so amazed by your beet and carrot harvest. We only grew Detroit Dark Red this year, we'll have to branch to other varieties next year. I wish our soil was better, we have very hard clay soil, and our carrots suffered because of it. Could only grow nubs. We are switching to raised beds for next year.

Geno said...

Beets and carrots are two of my very favorite garden veggies. The obvious labor of love that you folks engage in is amazing.

Jeff Vandiver said...

Gosh, your garden sure does produce alot of harvest! I am highly impressed...

el said...

Dude, there is no way I could put away that many carrots and beets in a year, and I love carrots and beets! So, you eat beets for breakfast or what? :) But seriously you should consider doing a CSA, or buying a milk goat to help you with the stash...

Mr. H. said...

ThyHandHathProvided - I am always amazed at how many carrots we eat and boy do we go through them fast. My wife and I worked together on carrot harvest day, I dug them up and she cut the greens off.

We must have been out huckleberry picking the day you came over...besides, you were supposed to show up in late September.:)

Malay-Kadazan girl - How wonderful that you have been able to avoid the market and eat from your own garden.:) One of the best things about carrots is that they can be eaten at any size and are a fairly early crop. It sounds like you are able to make good use of yours...I like that you grow them in containers.

Anne - Thanks. Believe me, we are following in others footsteps and still learning as we go along. I wouldn't have it any other way though as it is so very empowering in every sense to grow ones own food.

Tabitha - A fellow beet lover, I knew that there were more of us out there.:) Very nice to meet you too.

Annie's Granny - Beets can be a tough one sometimes, I know that we have to get ours planted as early as possible in order to have a decent sized root. I'm actually quite surprised that the root veggies did so well for us this year since we got such a late start. Last year was about as perfect as can be and our beets and carrots both struggled to reach a decent size...who knows.

Laura - I am looking forward to seeing your beets next year, I know they will be great.:) I wish I could hold our crops in the ground but with over 100" of snow in 2008/09 and another La Nina winter approaching for 2010/11 it would be too much snow shoveling, that and I just know that the voles would find them. Although they have yet to damage our sunchokes, most of which do remain underground all winter.

I am looking forward to stopping by your blog to see what a day in the slow life is all about.:)

Ms. Adventuress - Diversity through variety in the garden is so much fun. Keeping in mind that there are often a lot of "experimental" crops that don't do that well there are just as many that do. To me personally, growing a large variety of each type of crop keeps things interesting. Our purple carrots for example never do very well but I continue to grow them as I just love the dark colors.

Julie - Thanks. "Wow" is what I say when I am hauling all of those coolers full of carrots and beets around...some of them get pretty darn heavy.

Meemsync - If your soil is not too hard I highly recommend the cylindrical variety. Detroit Dark Red is one of the best beets out there and always grows well for us...if I only grew one type I would have to give that one serious consideration. The beet in the picture that we had in storage for so long is a Detroit Dark Red.

Geno - It is a labor of love, I can't imagine doing it any other way at this point. Beets and carrots seem to do well in our region and are also two of our favorites. I hope that when you all get settled in you will be able to grow some as well.

Mr. H. said...

Engineeredgarden - That is the secret of our success. I don't have a green thumb like Granny so I figure that if I plant enough stuff we are bound to come out ahead in the end.

El - You know how us crazy vegetarians are, we really do eat carrots and beets for breakfast. As to the csa...shh, if Micki hears us talking about this she will no doubt start hatching more plans for me.:) Believe it or not we have been contemplating this. Anyway, I do like the idea of sharing my veggies with a goat though, I hear that they will eat just about anything...I like that.

Ohiofarmgirl said...

great googly-moogly! a 20 pound beet!!?!? wowza... but those mangles are pretty darn impressive. our crappy clay soil doesnt get these spectacular results, but i'm working on it.

happy friday!

Kathie said...

It's all so very beautiful! We had a great carrot year too. Our beets didn't do as well for some reason.

Chris Brock (under the Chestnut tree) said...

Hi Mr H. Your place seems to be the who is who of Heirloom vegetables. Great for folk to see all of these varieties. While in Germany our neighbour was storing his beets in the ground with sand packed around them and wooden boards around the sand - but he didn't have as many as you have.

foodgardenkitchen said...

First time visitor coming from The Modern Victory Garden... Great blog and a very impressive garden! When I started scrolling through the first page, I thought perhaps you grow for a Farmer's Market since there is *so* much volume. But now I see that you store for yourselves and are vegetarians to boot.

Great job!

Heiko said...

I'll trade you a gallon of olive oil for some of those beauties. I'm sooooo envious. I'm getting to realise that it'll take me years to get my soil in a good enough condition to grow root crops like you... :(

Jennifer Jo said...

I love the pictures of your crazy huge harvests. I get a rush just from LOOKING at them.

el said...

I meant to say, Mike, you should try to get ahold of that book that the Baker Creek folks referenced. It's a stunner, though kinda expensive. (You must have a holiday, birthday or anniversary coming up soon, right?) It's SO filled with veggies that aren't grown any longer and then a ton of stuff that is but not commonly...it's one of my best reference books. There are something like 80 types of cabbages alone in there. MM. Vilmorin-Andrieux' The Vegetable Garden.


Mr. H. said...

Ohiofarmgirl - Yes, can you imagine a 20lb beet. I would have to start raising pigs just so I had a way get rid of all the extra. Goats, goats would probably eat a beet.:)

Mr. H. said...

Kathie - I'm glad to hear that your carrots did well. Last year we just had a "fair" crop of both beets and carrots, mostly because they just would not size up. This year, fortunately, they both thrived. Hope your beets do great next summer.:)

Chris - How interesting, it sounds like your German neighbor had a good storage system. The only thing we leave in the ground are the majority of our sunchokes, they need to be kept really cold to help break down the inulin in them...makes them easier to digest.

Foodgardenkitchen - Nope, no farmers market, not yet anyway. Between my wife and I, the grandson, and a flock of ravenous chickens we somehow manage to consume most of these veggies. Growing our own food really does help one to realize just how much food a person has to grow in order to feed themselves. Thanks so much for visiting.

Heiko - You have got yourself a deal, when you stop by to deliver the oil you will have to show my how to can some tomatoes Italian style.:) We are blessed with good soil, I can only imagine how much more work it would be to try and garden in rocky or clay soil.

Jennifer Jo - I do too, after spending a whole lot of months tending all these veggies it is really something to finally harvest them...especially on years that they do well for us.

El - Wow, that does sound like a must have book for me. I added it to my Amazon list and will try and search out a quality used one. I love books like that and am surprised I have never come across it before.

Micki, if you ever read this...think Christmas present.:)

Jeannette said...

GORGEOUS is all that comes to mind. I'm so envious every time I see post photos of the food you find or grow. My only consolation is that my pecan trees finally produced some nuts this year! Not a big crop but better than having them drop early as I've done the last two years.

deborah said...

Comment for Mike
Hi Mike! I've been away from blogging for a while, but have decided to give it another go. Glad to see you are still here and doing even more wonderfully it seems. Good for you!
What beautiful beets and carrots! I generally have trouble with both these crops, but I think it's my failure to thin well enough and not my soil or climate. And with regard to the sheer bounty of your harvest, while I'm not (entirely) a vegetarian, I certainly do eat both beets and carrots for breakfast and would make a pretty good dent in going through this many in a year. I also bake with beets. They give cakes and muffins such a wonderful richness and moistness.
By the way, I grew the Craupadine heirloom beet for the first time this year. Even my less than wonderful results were delicious!
Glad to reconnect. Take good care, Deborah

Diane@Peaceful Acres said...

All I can say is you put me to shame!!! What an amazing harvest of roots!!! So wonderful.

Leigh said...

Bravo on the root crops! What a standard to set for the rest of us. I'm one who has always had poor showings for root crops. This is mostly due to our heavy clay soils, which will improve with time. How much to plant is something else I need to learn. I think I'm planting a lot, but always wish for more. Ah well, experiment and learn.

Paulette Whitney, Provenance Growers said...

Thanks so much for sharing! We are starting out here, breaking an old cow paddock and growing for ourselves, a Farmers Market and restaurants. No voles here, just Brushtail Posssums, Wallabies and Pademelons! So we can only garden inside an electric fence! I am really happy to read your reviews of different varieties, no seed catalogue ever rates one thing as better than another. So thanks for the inspiration, practical approach and great photos!

Sense of Home Kitchen said...

Wow, that is some row of carrots. This post was packed with helpful information, thank you.


Mr. H. said...

Jeannette - Wow, a producing pecan tree/s is a real treasure, the nuts are so very expensive to buy. We have few hazelnut trees and were blessed with one whole nut this year for the first time, perhaps next year there will be a couple more. Thank you for your nice comments.:)

Deborah - Welcome back, we have missed hearing from you. I hope you have had a wonderful summer. You must be a fellow beet aficionado if you eat them for breakfast and have grown a Craupadine.:) Thinning is important and something I still struggle with in the garden, I'm getting better though...it's hard to pull and toss all of those perfectly good veggies you know.

Diane - Thanks, we were very fortunate to have had a decent year in the garden even though it was off to a bit of a slow start. I am already looking forward to next year.:)

Leigh - Heavy clay soil has got to be a tough type to grow a root veggie in, that is for sure. Also, it certainly does take time to figure out exactly how much of each crop to plant and we are still working on that aspect of it all as well. For the most part I just try to think about how many, let's say carrots, we eat each week and then each year. I then grow about 30% more than I think we need in order to make up for any losses and usually come out ahead in the end.

Paulette - How exciting to be breaking new ground and growing for more than just yourselves. But yes, you are right, every vegetable listed in the seed catalogues are the very best according to them.:) Thank you for visiting our blog.

Mr. H. said...

Brenda - Thanks, it was a good year for root veggies in our garden and we are very grateful to have been successful with such a diverse variety. It keeps things interesting.:)

cottage garden farmer said...

What a wonderful harvest. Puts my few offerings to shame!

farmer said...

Great Haul!!
Where did you get the Flat of Egypt seeds from?
they look so interesting, hows the flavor? do they keep well?

Mr. H. said...

Cottage Garden Farmer - Thanks!:)

Farmer - We originally got the flat of Egypt beets from Baker Creek Seeds and yes they do grow, store, and taste really good. - http://rareseeds.com/cart/products/Flat_of_Egypt_Beet-1312-130.html

michelle said...

That's a truly impressive harvest of beets and carrots. I'm curious to hear what you think of the flavor of the Crapaudine beets. I'm not growing any root vegetables this winter, the damned voles are out of control, making it impossible to get any root veggies started.

Carolemc said...

Wow what a great harvest!

We had our first frost, here in the North of England, this week too. I was glad to see it, real seasonal weather at last... and the winds during the week also brought Fieldfares and Redwing to us.

Rob said...

Wow! Just discovered your blog. What an inspiration.
Specially interested in your root cellar - not a thing we have much of in UK but I aim to have one.

Mr. H. said...

Michelle - In all honesty I did wash and nibble on a raw crapaudine in the garden but have not cooked any as of yet. The raw one did had a very strong flavor to it, hopefully it will be much better cooked.

Too bad about your voles. Like I mentioned to you before, it wasn't until we were able to surround the gardens with chickens that the voles went away...mostly. Nasty little buggers.

Carolemc - Yes, the weather is changing quickly. I have been watching the geese fly overhead every day now...heading south.

Rob - Our little house is very, very old and has dungeon like basement with an actual well in it. Unheated it remains very cool all year and makes for a great root cellar. It is so nice to walk downstairs and get fresh veggies in the middle of the winter. I hope you are able to have one as well. I'm surprised to hear that they are not more popular in the UK.

Silke Powers said...

Hey! What happened to my comment?! I left one this morning, but I guess I did something wrong. I LOVED all the photos of your harvest! What a crop! And I am envious of all the beets - they'd be my favorite root vegetable if I had to pick one! Guten Appetit!! Silke

Mr. H. said...

Silke - Hi! You didn't do anything wrong, after five days this comment moderation thing kicks in. Anyway, yes, beets are great. We cooked some up and tossed them on a salad just this morning. Thanks for stopping by.:)

Vegetable Garden Cook said...

Wow! What an impressive harvest! So far, my carrots are only the size of my pinky. Trial and error, right?

Mr. H. said...

Amy - It really is trial and error, with me it was cabbages, onions, and corn. I spent years trying to get a decent crop off any of those three and now I do OK with all of them. So keep trying as a good crop of carrots is just around the corner.:)

Anonymous said...

I just love looking at all those carrots. They are so big and there is so many of them. It's like in some kind of veggie fairy tale.
I will try your carrot storage system next year, I just have to grow enough to have enough for storage.

Mr. H. said...

Vrtlarica - That's great, I hope you do get a chance to store carrots as it is so nice to have a supply of them on hand in the middle of winter...and beets too.:)

Anonymous said...

We've recently moved to Rural America and I'm anxious to get a good garden going next spring. One thing, I don't have a lot of storage space. We do not have a root cellar either. I noticed you packed your carrots and beats in totes/coolers with moist dirt between the layers. Do you bury these? Do you just keep them outdoors? Wouldn't they freeze. I live in SE, KS, and the weather here is blazing hot in the summer and bone-chilling cold at times in the winter.

Mr. H. said...

Anonymous - How exciting to move into the country and be able to start a nice garden. The 1st trick to storing root veggies for a long time is to leave them in the ground for as long as possible and try to get them pulled just before a hard frost or the ground freezes. Some people will leave their carrots in the ground all winter and simply cover them with lots of straw or leaves. We don't do this as we often get way too much snow to be digging for carrots in the middle of winter.

We are fortunate in that we have an underground cement basement, more like a dungeon, in our old house that can be kept fairly cold all year. If I did not have such a place I would consider using a cold garage or even back room where one could keep the temperature at about 35-45°. An underground clamp might also be an option.

I highly recomend the book "Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits and Vegetables" by Mike and Nancy Bubel. Also, here is a link that lists different articles on root cellars and cellar alternatives.

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