Root crop harvest

Today was a good day in the garden. Bill and I decided it was time to harvest the last of the vegetable root crops: carrots, parsnips, potatoes and leeks.

Here’s the rundown on how the varieties of each root crop performed this year:

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‘Red Core Chantenay’
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‘Mokum hybrid’

Carrots: I grew ‘Red Core Chantenay’, ‘King Midas’ and ‘Mokum hybrid’. As you can see by each of the three photos (remember that you can click on each of them to view a larger image), ‘Red Core Chantenay’ had huge roots and won the prize for their heft. I’ve cooked with them over the past couple of weeks and, even though they’re large, the roots are tender and delicious.

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‘King Midas’

‘King Midas’ came in second, with mid-sized, attractive roots. They were very productive in the bed and I think the root-size is perfect for most purposes.

‘Mokum hybrid’ has more slender roots but the yield was respectable.

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Parsnips: I had a very disappointing harvest for the first time in all of the years I’ve been growing it. Darn! The main problem was poor seed germination. I had forgotten that the viability of parsnip seeds drops steeply after the first year, so it’s my own fault. Next year, I will definitely use fresh seeds. Aside from that, the variety I grew was ‘Andover’, which produces very white roots. They were pretty slender this year and some of the roots were quite small. I always plant them in the same bed as the carrots because they’re in the same family. Since the carrots produced magnificently, I’m not sure what to attribute the poor parsnip growth to.

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My oh-so-helpful potato digger, Bill!

Potatoes: This year, in addition to the raised bed that I planted seed potatoes in, I also tried my hand at growing them in a 15-gallon potato grow bag.

First, the raised bed results: I’m embarrassed to admit that I forgot to take a photo of the whole harvest before we put them into storage! However, they produced quite well and I’m pleased with the harvest. I planted ‘Viking Purple’ and ‘German Butterball’ this year. The ‘Viking Purple’ was more productive and had larger potatoes. I grew them last year and was really impressed with them, along with the bright purple skins and white flesh. The size of the ‘German Butterball’ potatoes was smaller and we got a smaller harvest from them. We may replace them next year with ‘Yukon Gold’ — a tried-and-true favorite for us.
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Now, the grow bag results: We filled the bag with organic potting soil this spring and then planted a few small leftover potatoes from last year. You can see the total haul in the photo. Since I’ve never used a grow bag before, I wasn’t sure how much of a harvest to expect. What do you think? Have you had better harvests than this from a grow bag? If so, maybe we didn’t give them enough water. I know potatoes don’t like a lot of water so we just used a single drip-irrigation tube to deliver the water to the bag.

Leeks: If you saw my recent video on growing and harvesting leeks, you know I was pleased with how the plants performed this year. I planted ‘King Richard’ seeds in January and am always amazed at how such tiny seeds — and seedlings that look like a blade of grass — can yield such big roots! As we harvested them today, we cut off the green leaves and the roots, to make it easier to store them in the fridge.

root cropsHow am I storing everything for the next few months? Well, the carrots, parsnips and leeks are being stored in plastic bread sacks or grocery bags in the vegetable drawers of our refrigerator. The potatoes are a different story: Bill tried a method last year that I was sure wouldn’t work. It turns out, he knew better than I and proved me wrong! He puts slightly damp straw into a plastic bin that has a lid. Then he puts the potatoes into the straw, covers the bin and stores it in our unheated (but insulated) garage. By the way, we don’t wash off the potatoes before storing them because that can accelerate spoilage. We just dig them up and let them dry off a bit in the shade before storing them.

Now obviously I have way more produce than we can eat so I’m donating lots of carrots (and winter squash, too) to the food bank. I would have also donated some of the parsnips but the harvest was rather underwhelming to say the least!

I hope your root crops grew great this year and would love to hear which varieties you are pleased with. Just drop me a line at inthegarden@live.com.