How Do You Harvest Carrots

Carrots come in a rainbow of colors, adding beauty and flavor to your garden. But knowing when to harvest those vibrant roots can be tricky. You don’t want to pull them up too early and end up with baby carrots, but waiting too long can make them tough and woody.


This guide will help you identify the perfect timing to harvest your homegrown carrots for optimal taste and size.

When is Carrot Season?

Carrots are cool-weather lovers, typically planted in spring or fall. The good news is you can enjoy a harvest throughout spring, summer, and even fall! But the exact timing for your specific carrots depends on two things:

  1. Planting Time: Did you sow your seeds in the spring or fall? Early planting generally means an earlier harvest.
  2. Carrot Variety: Different varieties grow at different paces. Faster-growing types like ‘Nantes’ might be ready in just 50 days, while larger, slower-growing storage carrots can take up to 110 days.

Check the Seed Packet

Seed packets are your best friend when it comes to harvest timing.  They’ll usually give you a specific timeframe for when your chosen variety reaches maturity.

Top-Secret Signs Your Carrots Are Ready:

Since most of the carrot magic happens underground, how can you tell if it’s harvest time? Here are two key clues:

  1. Sizing Up the Tops:  Once your carrots have been growing for at least the minimum recommended days (check your seed packet!), take a peek at the carrot greens. Lush, healthy tops that reach around 10-12 inches tall are a good sign that the underground root is mature too. Conversely, small, underdeveloped leaves might indicate the carrot needs more time to grow.
  2. Shoulder Check:  The “shoulders” are the top part of the carrot root, sometimes peeking above the soil when ready for harvest. If the shoulders aren’t visible, gently brush away some soil around the base. Here’s what to look for:
    • Ready to Harvest: The shoulders measure ¾ to 1 inch in diameter and the root has a deep, vibrant color.
    • Needs More Time: The shoulders look underdeveloped. Gently firm the soil around the base and wait a bit longer before checking again.

Harvesting Your Carrot Bounty

The beauty of carrots is that you don’t have to harvest everything at once! Unlike radishes, carrots can stay fresh in the ground for a while without getting tough. This allows you to pick just what you need for a meal, keeping the rest in the garden for later.

Here’s how to harvest your carrots

  1. Hydration is Key: The day before harvest, water your plants generously. This softens the soil, making it easier to pull out the long roots.
  2. Early Bird Gets the Carrot: Aim to harvest in the cool morning hours. This ensures the roots are well-hydrated and the plants are less stressed, leading to longer storage life.
  3. Loosen Up: Use a hand trowel or hori-hori to gently loosen the soil around the base of the carrot plant.
  4. The Big Pull: Hold the carrot greens firmly and tug gently, twisting slightly if needed. This loosens the root from the soil and helps prevent the greens from breaking off.
  5. Clean Up: Brush off any loose soil and bring your carrots in for a well-deserved snack or to be preserved for later enjoyment.

Storing Your Carrot Harvest

Before storing your carrots, rinse them off to remove any remaining dirt and trim the greens, leaving about an inch of stem attached. Here are a few storage options:

  • Crisper Drawer: Store carrots in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. This keeps them fresh and crisp for several weeks.
  • Long-Term Storage: For longer storage, consider canning, freezing, or packing your carrots in moist sand within a root cellar.

Bonus Tip: Don’t toss those carrot greens! They’re completely edible and can be used in various ways:

  • Herb Substitute: Use carrot greens in place of parsley in recipes.
  • Pesto Power: Whip up a delicious carrot top pesto for a vibrant twist.
  • Dehydrated Delights: Dry your carrot greens and blend them into seasoning mixes, similar to how you would use dried parsley.

With a little planning and these handy tips, you’ll be harvesting and enjoying delicious homegrown carrots all season long!

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