Not being a fan of frozen or canned carrots, I began to wonder if there was a way to enjoy organic carrots throughout the winter. I remembered family members in years past storing carrots in sand and being sent to the barrel to find carrots for dinner.
Living in Central Oregon where beach sand is not at the hand, I thought I would try sand pre-bagged at the local hardware store for children’s sand boxes. Using large plastic food boxes with sand, I layered the carrots carefully separating them from each other. As the winter wore on, they became very rough on the outside edges and seem to lose their sugar and flavor. Eventually they began to show cracks and separations along the stems. They really became very unpalatable.
As I thought about this, I began to realize when working in the soil in the early spring, I would find, from time to time, perfectly good red potatoes missed in the fall harvest. It set me to wondering if carrots properly protected from freezing might hold over as well.
The next level of experimentation was to grow carrots in a bed, broadcasted rather than in rows. This gave me “baby carrots” for Saturday Market and kept the carrots growing in close proximity so that trying to protect them from somewhat harsh High Desert winters in Central Oregon might be more efficient. My carrot beds are 4 feet wide and 24 feet long, which produces more than enough carrots for the farmers market and for our winter use as well.
After the markets were done for the year and winter was threatening, I gathered garden straw from a local farmer. It is important that you know that straw for the garden has not come from crops treated with herbicides to control broad-leafed weeds. The herbicides can leech into the soil making difficult growing conditions for the future.
I trimmed off the carrot tops to keep them from macerating under the mulch and added the trimmings to the compost pile. Then breaking up the bales, I layered the sides and the top of the carrot beds with 12-18 inches of straw. Starting with 12 inches, you can later add more if the weather looks as though it will turn off severely cold. I found 12 inches was good to 20 degrees or so, but added another 6 inches when the weather dropped to -10 degrees F or below. We were able to dig good-tasting and -looking carrots until April when they began to show lower-quality characteristic. So this became our standard approach to winter carrot storage, with less work and far better quality and taste.