Root Crops

Root Crops

Part of Ep. 205 Autumn Highlights

Learn when to harvest root crops with Eau Claire County Extension horticulturist Susan Frame.

Premiere date: Aug 31, 1994

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
It's fun to try and grow different varieties of vegetables in the garden. Root crops grow well in Wisconsin, but it's not always easy to tell what to do with them and when to harvest them, because they're underground and you can't see what's happening. I'm with Eau Claire County Extension horticulturist, Susan Frame. And, we're going to show you how to harvest and store some of the root crops that do grow well in Wisconsin. Susan, let's start out with the potatoes since they're right here.

Susan:
Right, these potatoes are ready to be harvested because the vines have already died back. So, this is our key to know it's ready. You can just dig down, we've got a nice potato fork here. And if you just dig down away from the base of the plant because you don't want to be injuring the potatoes.

Shelley:
Okay, and then there you are.

Susan:
And then you should have some potatoes in here. These are real nice. What you want to do is, you just want to brush the soil off of them real gently. You don't want to wash them at all because you can end up bruising them more. On any of the root crops. don't wash them, just brush the soil off gently.

Shelley:
Okay, now do I have-- this one looks like I stabbed it a bit.

Susan:
On ones that may be injured, you want to use those right away because any time the skin's broken, they're going to start to deteriorate. So, use those right away and don't try and store those.

Shelley:
Okay, am I ready to store these?

Susan:
No, on the potatoes, you need about two weeks of curing time. And what you want to do is, you want to put them in a spot that they're not going to get any sun or rain. And, you want the temperature to be around sixty to seventy degrees. So, maybe like a porch or a garage works well. Put them on a screen or some single layer so that they get a lot of air circulation. And, leave them there for two weeks. During that time period, they're going to-- their skins are going to harden up and they're going to store much better.

Shelley:
Okay, then they're ready for storing. So, how do I do that?

Susan:
Right, then they need to be stored in a spot that's around 32 to 40 degrees and in the dark. They don't need any light for storage. And, when you put them into-- you can put them in any kind of containers, really. But, only stack them about 12 to 18 inches thick in the containers because if you get a lot deeper than that, they're going to start to heat up and start to deteriorate.

Shelley:
And the ones on the bottom may be rotting.

Susan:
Right, and so if it's not too thick, you can look through them when you go down and get some for supper and pick out the ones that maybe aren't doing too good.

Shelley:
Okay, what about carrots? Those grow easily, too.

Susan:
Right, uh-huh. And, we have some-- one dug right here and we can just see that we're just going to brush the soil off of this one, again.

Shelley:
Again, don't wash them.

Susan:
Don't wash them. And it's good if you're harvesting your crops, if you can do it when the soil is kind of dry so that they don't stick too much. And then we're going to just cut off about the top inch to half inch of the leaves. And then, we want to leave the root and the stem attached yet to the carrot because if we have both of those attached, they won't deteriorate so quickly by having an extra opening. So, it's best to leave them intact.

Shelley:
Okay. Now, when I've got room, I usually just store my carrots in the refrigerator.

Susan:
Right, that works out really well because again, they need about that 32 to 40 degrees temperature. And, they need high humidity. So, the refrigerator works really well. You can put them in, like, a plastic bag and usually store them for a couple of months in the refrigerator. It works really good.

Shelley:
Okay, sometimes I don't have room. There are alternative methods, aren't there?

Susan:
Yeah, we're going to show one today. This is a five-gallon bucket that we have. This one is full of sawdust. And, you can actually store the carrots in here. We have some already just pushed in here. You can either store them upright or lay them down and cover them up. And, you want to make sure the sawdust is wet because they need that moisture for the humidity. You can use sawdust. Or, sand works quite well, too. So, whatever you have available.

Shelley:
Okay, and where do I put this bucket?

Susan:
In the basement works pretty good. You want a relatively cool spot and you want to keep that humidity up. And, one way you can do it is to wet some layers of newspaper. Lay it over the bucket. And then, store them that way.

Shelley:
And then check them every once in a while to make sure they're not drying out, basically.

Susan:
Check them about once or twice a month, just to make sure they don't need some more water.

Shelley:
Okay, there are other vegetables that store just like the carrots, too.

Susan:
Right, right. And some of those are right over here. We have some nice beets that are ready for storage.

Shelley:
And parsnips looks like here, and rutabaga. These all work.

Susan:
Right, all of these store really well at those same temperatures with the high humidity.

Shelley:
Okay, great. Thanks, Susan.

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