Harvesting and Storing Root Crops

Yes, the weather has turned cold, with hard freezes and continuing freezing overnight temperatures now the norm. Most garden crops have been harvested. But a few root crops remain, and with good reason. When is the right time to harvest and store them properly?

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach horticulturists can help answer questions about harvesting root crops. To have additional questions answered, contact the ISU Hortline at 515-294-3108 or

When should parsnips be harvested?

Harvest parsnips in mid- to late November in Iowa. Cool fall temperatures convert starch to sugar and give parsnips their sweet, nut-like flavor.

When harvesting parsnips, carefully dig up the plants, as damaged or broken roots do not store well. After harvest, trim the foliage back to within 1 inch of the roots. Store parsnips at a temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit and a relative humidity of 95 to 98 percent. Small quantities can be placed in perforated plastic bags and stored in a refrigerator. A basement storage room or root cellar are suitable storage sites for large quantities.

When should salsify be harvested?
Harvest salsify in mid- to late November, as cool fall temperatures enhance the oyster-like flavor of the roots. After harvest, trim off the foliage 1 inch above the roots and store salsify at 32 F and a relative humidity of 95 to 98 percent.

When should rutabagas be harvested?
Rutabagas perform best when planted in mid-summer for a fall crop. Harvest rutabagas in early to mid-November, as exposure to several frosts sweeten the flavor of the roots. After harvest, trim off the foliage 1 inch above the roots and store rutabagas at 32 F and 95 percent relative humidity. Rutabagas can be stored up to six months with proper storage conditions.

When should horseradish be harvested?
Harvest horseradish in late November in Iowa, as horseradish roots make their greatest growth in late summer and early fall.

Carefully dig up horseradish and cut off the foliage about 1 inch above the crown. Store horseradish in a refrigerator or root cellar at 32-40 F and a relative humidity of 90 to 95 percent. When storing horseradish, keep the roots in a dark location, as the roots turn green when exposed to light.

Source: Iowa State University 

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