Harvested at the right time, carrots are sweet & tender. But if you harvest them too late, they can be tasteless. Learn when to harvest carrots here.
Carrots are one of our favorite root vegetables to grow—they come in so many more colors than orange, taste better than what you’d find at the store, and have more vitamins than most store-bought carrots! We use them year-round as a side dish, in soups, in salads, and so many other recipes! Here’s how to harvest them:
When are carrots ready to harvest?
For many carrot varieties, carrots taste the best when they are harvested at 1/2 inch in diameter. Younger carrots will still be sweet and tasty, but they will obviously be significantly smaller. So we recommend waiting until you can see that the top of the carrot is about the width of your thumb.
The 1/2″ diameter guideline is just that…a general guideline. Check your seed packet for the final size of your particular variety of carrots—some varieties might be a different size at maturity! For instance, Thumbelina carrots (a Chantenay baby carrot that we love) are short and round, and much wider than 1/2″.
How do I harvest carrots?
If your carrots are growing in loose soil with lots of sand, you can simply grab the carrot right at the top of the root and twist to pull it up. But in heavier soil, use a trowel or garden fork to dig up and loosen some of the dirt around the carrots before you pull.
Can you leave carrots in the ground too long?
Yes—if you leave carrots in the ground to get bigger and bigger, they can become fibrous and tasteless. They are still generally safe to eat, but they won’t have a great flavor.
Can you harvest carrots too early?
Kind of. Small carrots that get pulled before they are 1/2″ wide will still taste great, but you won’t be getting the most out of your carrot crop. Wait until they hit maturity to harvest.
What happens to carrots left in the ground over winter?
We love planting carrots in the fall for a winter crop—they are even sweeter than typical carrots! Sow carrot seeds in the fall and give them a hefty layer of mulch. In mild climates, use 6-18″ of mulch and harvest your carrots throughout the winter. In colder climates, use a low tunnel or cold frame after the ground freezes, and harvest in the spring, once the soil has thawed.
How do I store carrots after harvest?
Remove the leaves with a pair of scissors about an inch from the carrot. Leaving a little bit of stem attached will help your carrots last longer, but removing most of the greens will make the carrots easier to store.
Any misshapen or damaged carrots should be stored in the refrigerator for immediate use. Healthy carrots can be kept in a box or other container layered with sand or sawdust. Keep the container of carrots in a cool, dry spot such as a root cellar or basement.
Carrots can also be blanched for freezer storage. Freeze carrots in a zip-top plastic bag or a freezer-safe container with as much air as possible squeezed out.