Harvest and Storage
Root vegetable harvest is not determined by defined maturity characteristics. Timing depends on plant growth rates, root size and quality criteria, and market demands. Roots are harvested with or without the tops attached. In smaller plantings, harvest is done by hand, but it is more common to use some type of harvester or harvest aid.
Harvest any time after bulb sizing begins. Harvest by hand when bunches are desired. Beet roots require clipping (1 inch above the bulb) with mechanical harvesters in larger production systems (Fig. 9.1) or by hand. Wash beets in cold water and bag before storing at 32-35°F with 98-100% relative humidity. Bunched beets are usually marketed quickly (5-7 days of storage; leaves cause water loss) while bagged roots (without tops) can be stored for 3-4 months.
Carrot and Parsnip
Harvest any time after root sizing begins. In small operations, hand-dig or use a small potato harvester to lift the roots. Large mechanical harvesters undercut the root, grasp the leaves and lift roots out of the soil. Some machines remove or leave the foliage attached to the root. Wash roots (Fig. 9.2) and bag before storing at 34-36°F with 98-100% relative humidity. Bunched carrot are usually marketed quickly (5-7 days storage; leaves cause water loss) while bagged roots (without tops) can be stored for many months.
Radish, Rutabaga, and Turnips
Harvest radish when roots reach desired size. Bunch (with tops) or trim and sell bulbs only (Fig. 9.3). Wash, sort, cool, and pack in plastic bags. Store at 32-34°F with 95-100% relative humidity for 2-3 weeks. Rutabaga and turnips can be machine or hand harvested. Most are topped but bunches are common when direct marketed. Wash roots before bagging. Roots may be waxed to reduce water loss. Store at 32-35°F and 95-100% relative humidity for 2-6 months.