Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Carrots in the Snow

As I've mentioned elsewhere on the blog, I am an enthusiastic follower of the gardening methods outlined by Eliot Coleman in his outstanding book Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long. Coleman's methods work splendidly for me. One of his main themes is to try and harvest as much produce fresh from the garden for as long in the season as possible. This saves the time and energy involved in other preservation methods like canning and freezing, as well as giving one the most nutritional and tasty possible vegetables. One idea that he presents is to plant a coldframe full of closely spaced carrots late in the season. For me that means around August 15. You let the carrots grow unprotected until the weather gets pretty nippy, then close the coldframe and let them grow some more, then finally when it gets really, really cold you put down a thick layer of straw and leave the frame shut. The carrots will remain there safe well into the winter. Coleman notes that the very cold temperatures convert some of the starch in the carrots into sugar, making them extra sweet and tasty. His children call them "candy carrots" and actually prefer them to other snacks.

Does it work? Yup, in spades (pun intended.) I planted a frame full just about exactly on August 15 and followed the procedure all the way up through the start of very cold weather here. I started digging the carrots in late November and finally dug everything in the frame on December 15, just before the ground would have frozen solidly enough to prevent any more digging.

Wow! These carrots are about finger-sized, ridiculously crisp (each bite gives a resounding snap!), and deliciously sweet. In fact, a few days after I dug the main crop my daughter Michaela was asking for a snack. "How about some carrots?", I suggested. "Okay!", she replied enthusiastically and munched away happily on our own crop of candy carrots. Try this—you will love it.

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