Carrots are one of the 10 most economically important crops in the world. An often overlooked fact is that the whole plant–greens and all–can be consumed. Carrots are biennials, available year round, but their peak season is from March to October. They take roughly 9 – 18 weeks to mature to harvest. High in beta-carotene, and containing lesser amounts of alpha-carotene, gamma-carotene, lutein, and zeaxathin, they are said to help improve eyesight and skin health, slow aging, and reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, and stroke.
Storing Fresh Carrots:
First trim the any greens, or they will suck up all the moisture and leave your carrots limp and dry. Their natural bitterness will also affect the sweetness of the root. After trimming, you have a couple of different storage options. While taking 2 completely different approaches, they both involve the same, underlying principle of maintaining the vegetable’s moisture levels.
- This tried and true approach is exactly how we store our carrots at the farm: Tightly seal your unwashed carrots in a plastic bag or airtight container in the coolest part refrigerator. The airtight part is key here, because air exposure is one of the things that makes carrots become limp and dry. Wash just before using.
- Another approach that requires a little more work but definitely maintains freshness is to store your carrots in the in a water bath, in a sealed container in the fridge. This is a sure-fire way to make sure they maintain their moisture and stay fresh and crisp for up to a couple of weeks. Make sure to check the water every couple of days and change it whenever it begins to look cloudy.
While carrots never last more than a couple of weeks in my house, either of the methods described above should make your carrots last at least a month! If they do become limp during storage, you can refresh them in a bowl of ice water.
Most vegetables require a little prep before freezing, in order to kill any lingering bacteria and allow them to maintain color and freshness over time. While this usually involves blanching, with carrots, a faster alternative can be used to achieve the same results:
- Fill a large bowl with 3 parts cool water to 1 part white vinegar. Soak whole carrots in bowl for 2 minutes to kill any bacteria
- Trim and either scrub or peel and rinse carrots. Chop them into medallions or dice them, as preferred. (Diced carrots will freeze faster, if you’re short on time.)
- Lay prepared carrots on baking sheet(s) for approximately 5 minutes to allow them to air dry.
- Place baking sheet(s) into freezer. Once carrots are frozen, portion and place into airtight containers or ziplock bags and store in freezer.
Pickling carrots is quite simple, involving only a 1:1 ratio brine of water and vinegar and about 1 tbsp. salt for every 2 cups of brine. Herbs, spices, and other vegetables of your choice can be added as suits your taste.
The easiest way to pickle carrots is to make refrigerator pickles. First, blanch the carrots in boiling water, pack theme in canning jars, and then pour the boiling brine over them. As soon as the jars cool, they can be lidded and placed in the fridge. Your refrigerator pickles will stay good for up to 1 month.
Alternatively, if you prefer a longer shelf life, you can water-bath can your jars of brined carrots. This will free up refrigerator space and allow you to enjoy those bright, delicious carrots any time of year.
For a great, simple recipe to get you started on your carrot-pickling adventures, check out this helpful post by Serious Eats!
Quick Prep Tips
Carrot greens can be saved and eaten raw or blanched and sautéed as a green.
Further Prep Tips
Carrot prep can be whatever you want it to be. Begin by trimming any greens from the tops of your carrots. While most people discard these greens, they are actually edible and open up a whole new world of cooking possibilities.
Trim the ends off your carrots. Then, either scrub them with a vegetable brush and rinse, or peel them with a vegetable peeler and rinse. From here, the world is your oyster–grate, slice, dice, julienne. Cheese graters are wonderful for making quick work of carrots if you don’t feel like slicing them into tiny matchsticks by hand. Vegetable peelers will give you lovely, thin cross-sections of carrot that add flavor to salads without overpowering them. The options are endless and can be suited to whatever you desire to cook!