People might be acquainted with the fact that even in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator, carrots become old and limber rapidly. This happens even faster if the carrots are kept at room temperature. You might wonder how pioneering women of old managed to store and preserve carrots when most people didn’t have refrigeration or electricity. They often used a method that is ages old.
Naturally, people who had root cellars had a method of keeping carrots cool, yet not so dry that they became limber. However, not everyone had a root cellar. The difficulty was compounded because people didn’t have refrigerators and in many cases, they didn’t even have electricity.
It should be mentioned that if carrots get old and limber, losing their crunch, they can be put in iced water to restore the crunch. For pioneering women (and men), there were two problems with this. First and most immediate, few people had a ready source of ice. Second, when carrots age, the sugars they contain turn to starch, so they lose their sweetness.
This is the method my grandmother used and it worked quite well. Like many people, she and my grandfather grew most of their own produce, much like home gardeners do today. Late in the year when the carrots were ready for harvest, my grandmother would dig a furrow or shallow ditch right alongside a row of carrots. The carrots were then harvested and laid on their sides in the furrow, with the tops intact. Leaving the tops on helps the carrots store better.
Once the row of carrots was harvested and placed in the furrow, they were covered with straw to a depth of several inches. A couple of inches of dirt was put over the top of the straw. This wasn’t difficult to do because there would be dirt that came out of the furrow as it was made and this could simply be hoed over the top of the straw.
A stake was then driven into the ground on each end of the furrow. This allowed my grandmother to know where the row was, even if the ground was covered with snow. It was then a simple matter to go out and dig down by hand to get the desired amount of carrots, as they were needed. By working from one end of the row to the other, all the carrots could also be used.
The ground below and around the carrots keep them cool and the ground contains enough moisture to keep them from drying out. The straw insulates them and keeps them from freezing and turning to mush. The effort was actually minimal and it worked well. It still works well today.
Using this method, my grandmother was able to serve nice, sweet, crisp carrots to my grandfather and their eight kids all through winter and early spring, until after the last of the snow melted. That was from about November to April. Try keeping carrots in your refrigerator for six months and see what happens!
I must say, pioneering women had simple ways to make do with what nature provided.