Extending the shelf life of root vegetables like carrots has been practiced for centuries as a method to have fresh vegetables available all year.
Traditionally, carrots (typically a variety bred for winter storage) are kept in a root cellar or a cool, dark and relatively humid location in order to preserve them for eating in the winter offseason. Another traditional method is to store carrots in the ground right where they grew and then heavily mulch (6 inches or more of mulch) for harvest during the winter.
The traditional method of winter storage using a root cellar for freshly harvested carrots is to remove the leafy tops, brush off the dirt (but not wash), and store the carrots in near-freezing temperatures (just above 32 degrees Fahrenheit), packed in boxes or crates filled with damp (not wet) sand or sawdust. Carrots need humidity in the 95 percent percent range to store well in a root cellar, and packing them in moist sand or sawdust increases the humidity to the correct range. They should be stored away from any fruit that gives off ethylene gas (apples, pears and potatoes).
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Canned, pickled or frozen carrots are other traditional ways to preserve them even longer, for a year or more. Carrots are low-acid, so if canning you must use a pressure canner instead of a boiling water bath method.
So, how would you store carrots for up to 20 years? If 20 years sounds like a long time to store carrots, it might surprise you to know that “fresh” carrots in the grocery store may be eight or nine months old when you buy them. Modern developments in commercial food storage allow growers to store produce with a chemical named 1-methylcyclopropene, which extends the shelf life of carrots and some other vegetables such as broccoli and lettuce.
Storing Carrots For Up To 20 years
To store carrots up to 20 years, you must dehydrate them. The best part: This will maintain the nutritional value.
Some conditions: 1) The shelf life will be longer if your storage location has a moderate temperature and reduced light. A cool basement would be ideal, while a hot attic or room which fluctuates in temperature will shorten the shelf life of any stored food. 2) Botulism can grow in low-oxygen, moist environments. To avoid this, you must reduce the moisture level within the carrots to 10 percent or less in order to store long-term with an oxygen absorber packet or to safely store using a vacuum sealer that removes air.
DIY Carrots for Long-Term Storage
- A dehydrator with an electric fan is recommended.
- Wash carrots (peeling is optional).
- Slice ¼ inch or less.
- Blanch the slices of carrots to preserve color by steaming or simmering for two minutes.
- Plunge the blanched slices into an ice water bath to stop carrots from cooking.
- Drying temperature for carrots is generally 125 degrees. Drying time will depend on the humidity and your dehydrator.
- Once dry, let them cool for an hour or so, and then place temporarily into gallon size zip-top bags to “season” the dried slices for a week. Seasoning is not flavoring in this instance, but it accomplishes two things: 1) It distributes any remaining moisture evenly between slices, and, 2) It alerts you if there is too much moisture in your dried carrots. If you have too much moisture, you will see condensation on the inside of the sealed bags (in which case you need to dry some more).
- Pack into airtight glass containers or cans.
Your kitchen cupboards are simply too exposed to light and temperature fluctuations to be useful in storing items more than a year. Dried carrots in a glass jar will last about a year in kitchen cupboard conditions. This is about the same time as canned carrot product. However, in a cool, dry and dark place like a cellar, these jars of dehydrated carrots will last five or so years without any detectable change in taste.
For REALLY long-term storage, up to 20 years, put an oxygen absorber packet in the airtight container when packing, or remove air using a vacuum sealer, and again, store in a cool, dark, and dry place.
What tips would you add about storing carrots? Share your suggestions in the section below: