Dig the Taste

One of the best types of vegetables to grow in the Yukon are root crops.

Most root crops can take late frosts in the spring, so they can be planted as soon as the soil can be worked. They also don’t require high amounts of heat units which aren’t plentiful up here anyways.

I like to grow beets, you can eat the entire plant. The leaves make a tasty spring treat and the roots are wonderful pickled or as a side dish. They also don’t seem to have any pests or diseases and they grow well up here, another plus.

Carrots usually need to be thinned out. A process that removes some of the carrot seedlings to prevent crowding as they grow. It also prevents them from twisting around each other, making it almost impossible to pull up a single carrot.

When we finally found time to thin out the carrots, we were surprised that the thinnings weren’t just hair-sized roots but tasty “baby” carrots. Usually carrots aren’t ready to harvest until later in the summer, closer to fall. But these were ready mid-July.

We also found that the turnips were at the perfect “baby” size. Turnips tend to grow large amounts of leaves so they look like they might be bigger than they actually are. But both root and leaves can be harvested when the turnips are “baby” size. And both can be eaten as well.

Turnips and rutabagas grow very well in the Yukon, but they can have problems with worms. It helps to rotate them to a new area of the garden every year. Just remember that other brassicas are also susceptible and so should not be used in the rotation.

Another vegetable that does well up here are potatoes. Technically, not a root crop, they are treated as one because they grow underground. Potatoes, are actually part of the stem. This is evident when they are exposed to sunlight and turn green.

One way to increase potato production, is to hill them up. Essentially giving them more area to produce potatoes. This also protects the new tubers from turning green if they happen to break through the top of the soil.

Early potatoes are a treat like no other. Once the flowers start to bloom on a potato plant, you are able to “steal” a few for a meal. This means digging under the plant and removing a few potatoes, leaving the plant to continue producing the rest.

Look for cracks in the soil that radiate out from the plant’s stem. This is a sign that there is a potato expanding underneath. When digging them out, it is best to do this with your hands and not a gardening tool, otherwise, you run the risk of damaging the treasures beneath.

When you find them, remove them from their stem and push the dirt back. If they are too small, leave them for a while. It will be worth the wait.

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