If potatoes are your first self-sufficiency crop, carrots should be number two. Like potatoes, they are easy to grow, ceasily preserved without energy and, prepared in a number of different ways and provide a huge nutrient bang for your buck. They can also be grown in containers in the off season although that probably isn’t necessary as they store so well. I just pulled my last carrots from the summer planting from sand filled bins in the cellar and as soon as the ground thaws, I will be pulling carrots I planted in mid September and left to over winter. Even if you can’t grow your own (I’ll bet you can grow some) you can buy a years worth from a farmer’s market in the fall and keep them in your cellar.

I start by saving toilet paper rolls. That’s right. Toilet paper rolls. When it’s time to plant I fill each roll with potting soil and drop in a single seed. I set these upright in some recycled bin. Lat year, I asked everybody who used those metal turkey roasting pans to save them for me. I set those pans in a sunny window and keep them moist with a spray of water once or twice a day. By the time the ground is ready for planting, the seedlings have popped up. I set the toilet paper rolls, side by side, in a trench and fill in around with soil. You want the soil in the roll to be an inch or so below the level of the top of the roll. If any of the seeds have not generated yet, I drop in another seed in the empty roll. What I end up with is carrots that are protected from pests, the paper rolls decompose into the soil and I get the straightest carrots without those gnarly looking oddball that happen when carrots grow to closely together. I also never have to thin, a chore I truly loath. My carrots did so well, I popped in another crop in September. We ate them fresh until the ground froze and i hope to be eating fresh carrots again in April. I spent a couple of bucks on seed and a few dollars more on organic potting soil. Look around you patch of soil. Do you have one corner that could be devoted to a carrot patch? Admit it. You aren’t all that fond of scraggly looking Daisys. Replace a flower patch with some vegetables. The earth will thank you. But what if you live in a condo or apartment and really can’t find a community garden? I think you can grow carrots in a container, There are some small varieties that would do particurally well in containers. There are tricks to this. Look for a book on container vegetable gardening and follow their suggestions. I have a couple of acres to garden on and don’t have to do this so I don’t have a lot of advice to give. Go to an expert.

Pull carrots as you want them for fresh eating until the weather gets cold then pull the whole crop. Carrots can be stored in a cool, well ventilated space. A barrel makes a good container. Put in a layer of sand or peat, then a layer of carrots. Make sure they are undamaged and don’t touch each other. Now layer again and again until you run out of space or carrots. Make sure to harvest some from the barrel twice a week, Otherwise you have wasted all your time and all that food.

I can one batch of carrots to have some to stick in a soup or stew when I’m in a hurry. I dehydrate some too. Rehydrated, they are pretty close to fresh, at least a lot closer than canned. Should the worst happen (or is in the process of happening) The more good food you have stored and can produce on you own land, the better off you will be. I have a dream that suburban communities will decide to use some of their open space for community gardens. Churches and synagogues, mosques and temples need to answer the call of their faith and provide space to feed people. Maybe you can find an elderly neighbor who will trade her yard for your labor and a share of the carrots. You grow food and build community. Win-win.

I forgot to mention that potatoes can be grown in barrels too. I know of one family that plants in a barrel with a lot of compost and harvests 20-30pounds of potatoes from a sunny porch corner.