I was taken on as their apprentice at age three. My least-favorite job was thinning the carrot patch. If you’ve ever planted carrots, you know just how minuscule the seeds are and how hard it is to give them the right amount of space, even with a seeder. My grandfather put me to work as soon as the baby carrots were about the width of my pinky finger. I actually cried while pulling out the tiny orange roots, which were destined to never reach maturity. Too sensitive a kid for my own good, I wish I’d calmed down enough to appreciate what a delicacy I had on my hands. Carrot thinnings are exquisite eaten straight from the garden and can also be converted into a delectably crunchy cousin to the dill pickle – dilled carrots (recipe to follow).

I’ve found carrots an easy crop to grow, as long as I keep up with the weeding. I’ve gotten over my horror of thinning, and have even adopted a new technique for when the carrots are too small to eat. Instead of pulling unwanted carrots out, potentially disturbing the roots of remaining neighbors, I snip the tops off at the soil line, allowing the severed root to rot and provide air channels for the rest of the crop.

Carrots and their cousins, parsnips, taste sweeter after they’ve been touched by a fall frost. I leave a row of them in my zone 6a garden long into October to enjoy the fun of Halloween carrot pulling with my nine-year-old, an admittedly muddy but satisfying affair.

If you want to keep your carrots fresh for months after harvesting them, consider natural cold storage. You don’t need to have an actual root cellar, just a cold room, garage or carport where winter temperatures don’t drop below 0°C (32°F). Somewhere between 4°C – 7°C is ideal, which is the temperature most fridges are kept at.

A bunch of carrots of various colors.

The key to successful cold storage for root crops such as carrots is adequate air flow and relatively high humidity. You’re essentially trying to trick the carrots into thinking they’re still living in your garden. To do this, you need a clean soil substitute such as sand or sawdust from untreated wood that you can stick the carrots in with their crowns exposed. Break off the tops when you harvest, but leave a couple of centimetres on – definitely don’t cut into the root! Do the same thing for beets and parsnips if you’re storing those. It’s better to keep different vegetable varieties in separate crates. This will prevent the need to rummage around in the cold, wet sand looking for the right vegetable during the wintertime. Leave a couple of centimetres of space between roots. I find that it’s easier to insert them when the storage medium is dry. Add water once the vegetables are situated.

If you’re unsure about the average temperature in your storage space, keep a thermometer, notebook and pencil there and record temperatures regularly over a few days starting in the late fall. You can also buy a digital hygrometer/thermometer combination that will measure both humidity and temperature.

Plastic milk crates used as an option for storing carrots.

Over the years, I’ve experimented with different storage containers for my carrots, potatoes and beets to ready them for a few months slumbering in my cold, damp basement. Wooden crates were my first choice, but I discovered how quickly they rotted under moist conditions.

Enter plastic milk crates! Tough, cheap, cleanable and well ventilated, you can line these crates with burlap or a cardboard box (to keep the material from falling out) and then filled with clean sand or sawdust. Keep a watering can handy to wet the carrots down every couple of weeks. Aim for “squeezed sponge” moisture levels, not sopping wet. Pick up a handful of sand or sawdust to get a feel for how wet it is if you can’t tell just by looking.

You’ll notice that carrots will begin to sprout new yellow shoots after a few months in storage. Keep them trimmed to prevent the roots from withering. When you’re ready to eat, just pull them out. You might need a trowel to convince them to budge.

Whether you like your carrots in their raw form or pickled, I wish you happy crunching!

Preparing carrots for preserving.

Dilled Carrots

Substitute fennel fronds, star anise, or cilantro for dill if you’re short on the herb or want to experiment with flavors. I suggest blanching the garlic for 2 minutes before adding it to the jar; raw garlic will turn an unappetizing blue-green colour when exposed to brine.


  • 1 pound carrots (use baby or larger-sized carrots cut into spears)
  • 1/4 cup chopped dill weed (about 3 whole dill heads) or the equivalent amount of another fresh herb of your choice
  • 4 garlic cloves, blanched
  • 2 Tbsp. pickling salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup white or apple cider vinegar
Preserved carrots.


Immerse carrots in boiling water or steam them for 2 minutes, then put them in ice water for another 2 minutes. This process is called blanching and it will halt the enzyme action that causes vegetables to lose their color, texture and flavor.

Bring remaining ingredients (except garlic) to a boil to make a brine. Pack carrots into a sterilized quart jar or two pint jars. Drop garlic cloves in first so they don’t interfere with neat packing of spears. Cover carrots with hot brine. Seal jar and store in refrigerator for up to 2 months.

Elizabeth Peirce

Elizabeth Peirce is an award-winning author, editor, gardener and teacher. Her book You Can Too! Canning, Pickling, and Preserving the Maritime Harvest is available from Nimbus Publishing and at all major bookstores. Her new book Grow Hope: A Simple Guide to Creating Your Own Food Garden At Home will be released in early 2021. Elizabeth offers workshops that focus on how to grow and preserve our own food and she is hard at work on an online course called "Gardening in Tough Times." Visit her website at elizabethpeirce.ca.

Tools for Perserving

99W9720S - Prep & Preserve Set

Prep & Preserve Set


EM350 - Garlic Peeling Mat

Garlic Peeling Mat


EV118 - Canning Funnel

Canning Funnel


09A0410 - Mini Digital Kitchen Scale

Mini Digital Kitchen Scale


EV103 - Measuring Glass

Measuring Glass


EM349 - Silicone Tongs, 12"

Silicone Tongs with Teeth

From: $22.90

EV161 - Dissolvable Labels

Dissolvable Labels

(Pkg. of 120)


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