Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Naturally Preserved

The wonder of the garden never ceases to truly amaze me. We work diligently during the warm and sunny months to prepare a garden which will provide us with delicious vitals during this time. It’s no surprise to me that the garden can keep producing well into the cooler months; most hardy plants do well up to the first hard frost. What I am amazed by is how, when all signs of new life in the garden have passed, those wonderful root vegetables I planted mid-summer (some even early summer) are safely nested in the cold earth waiting to be harvested whenever I’m ready!
This has been the case for my carrots, beets, and turnips.  When we want to enjoy one of these tasty roots, we simply take our hand trowel out and dig them up! They are beautiful, crisp, and deliciously sweet! It think the nip of the frost sweetens them up!!
There are a few key factors I must point out in order for this to work. First, you must make sure that these hardy roots have had time to mature before the cold sets in. If you plant them too late, they won’t mature before the frost hits and kills the foliage.
Second, you must live in an area where the winter is cold and fairly dry. I live in the high desert which is why this practice works so well for me. Our winters are very cold, with some snow, and very little rain. If you live in an area where the soil stays wet for a good part of the fall and winter, your root vegetables may rot or be eaten by those lovely little white worms that love these scrumptious vegetables as much as we doJ If this is the case for you, you will want to pick them all mid to late fall. They keep very well in the refrigerator crisper!
Third, and probably last for me, is if you can let your soil do the preserving, and your ground freezes hard, wait until mid-day to try to dig them up. We have broken several in half because the ground was too hard to dig effectively. If you allow the heat of the day (even just a few degrees) to warm the soil, it will make it much easier to retrieve them! (I’m sure there are many places where it simply gets too cold to dig anything out of the ground.  You can always harvest them before the ground becomes completely solid or retrieve them when the temperatures begin to rise slightly!)
This discipline may not work for all, but I’m fortunate enough to be able to take full advantage of it…and I’m enjoying every bit of it! If you live in a climate that would be conducive for this practice, it may be something you want to try next year!
What miracles have you witnessed in your winter garden? I love hearing all of your stories!


  1. Made some awesome pickled carrots out of last summers bounty. Too bad my chickens think they need to dig everything up in the winter!!!

    PS: come get your milk and make me some cheese :)

    The Jacobs Homestead

    1. Pickled carrots sound amazing! I'd love to get your recipe!!

      And, I'll be giving you a call about this cheese business...I'm ready!!