It’s fall. I know that no one wants it to be fall, but it is hard to deny.
With every season, there are vegetables that are in decline and those that have just reached their prime.
Root crops are usually biennials, which means they store up energy in their roots the first year, then flower and produce seed the second year (radishes are an exception, as most do this all in one season). So, by the end of summer, root crops tend to be at their best.
The most commonly grown root crops are carrots, beets and parsnips. Harvesting depends on how you want to preserve these crops.
With beets, I usually make beet pickles, so I harvest them while they are still quite small. Carrots and parsnips can be blanched and frozen in meal-sized freezer bags or on a cookie sheet, then transfered to containers.
If you have a cold-storage area, root crops store well with the dirt left on or even in a container of sand. This mimics winters in warmer areas and allows for fresh vegetables throughout the winter.
This year, I am going to have the added benefit of harvesting some seed from my parsnips. Two plants came up this spring, voluntarily, and have now gone to seed.
Having never had this opportunity, I want to harvest them all before they drop to the ground. Dropping to the ground may not seem like a bad thing, but my mother had some parsnips go to seed in her garden and, over the next few years, close to a third of it was tightly packed with parsnip roots – so tightly that you could hardly dig them out … and that isn’t something I want in my garden.
So I am intending to put paper lunch bags over the seed heads, which will let the seed drop naturally into them. That way, I don’t pick the seed too early or leave it too late.
Once they have dropped, I will then keep the seed in a cool, dry place. I could also seed some out where I would like parsnips next year. They seem to like the extra time in the soil and actually do better seeded in the fall rather than in the spring.