How to Store Fresh Produce for Winter


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Categories: Food
 
The days when everyone had an underground cellar full of produce may be gone, but here's a simple technique that will give you sweeter, crisper winter vegetables than any you can buy at the grocery store. This method takes advantage of the fact that some vegetables can survive freezing temperatures and remain fresh, even when buried under a blanket of snow. 
 
 
Storing your vegetables in the ground during winter is a good idea. You can store carrots, beets, parsnips, turnips, celery, rutabagas, cabbages, leeks, kale, and spinach in the garden through winter by using this mulching technique. 
 
1. Before hard frosts begin, hoe soil over beets, carrots, and other root crops to protect any exposed shoulders, but keep the green leaves uncovered to let the plants continue to grow and sweeten. 
 
2. For the best flavor, allow cold tolerant crops to grow for as long as possible. If early hard frosts are predicted, cover plants with blankets, row covers, loose straw, or leaves; then uncover them when temperatures rise above freezing, so they can continue to grow. During cooler fall nights, these crops will accumulate higher levels of sugars, making them better tasting to us and more able to survive freezing temperatures. 
 
3. A winter deepens in milder regions, cover the crops with a light mulch to keep them in good shape through much of the season. In colder northern regions, bury the plants with leaves or straw just before the ground begins to freeze. A 1-foot-deep mulch should protect the crops and keep the ground from freezing in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 5. Use more in colder areas and less in warmer regions. 
 

 
If you put the leaves into trash bags, the wind won't carry them away, and they'll be easier to move aside when you want to harvest the crops. If you've had trouble with mice or voles, set a few traps to catch any critters before they set up winter housekeeping in the mulched vegetable beds. In most years, your snugly mulched crops will remain alive and ready to use all winter long. (If you allow any unharvested carrots, beets, or cabbages to grow again in spring, they will flower and produce seed for you.)

How do you store your own produce for a long winter?

Here is a rundown of the major produce and the best ways to store it. If you are lucky enough to have a root cellar than you probably don’t need these tips and tricks, but for the rest of us, this is a handy guide.

Potatoes, Beets & Rutabagas

The most important key to storage this type of produce is curing. Once the foliage has died back, pull the produce and lay on newspaper in a cool location (50-60ºF) in a well-ventilated area and wait for two weeks for the skin to toughen. Do not wash before storage, but brush off any large clumps of dirt. If any produce is damage (like you scratched the surface when digging it up), then use those soon. Do not store any produce that isn’t perfect.

After curing, store in bushel baskets, a cardboard box with holes for ventilation or in wire bins.  Cover the container with newspaper to eliminate light. Ideal storage temperatures are 30-40ºF, but they will still store well for several months at higher temperatures.

Onions

When it comes to storing onions, successful store starts at the very beginning. Seeds and young plants produce onions that store better than onion sets do. Mild onions do not store as well as stronger-flavored varieties. Choosing the right type of onion is just as important as how you store them. 

At harvest time, you will want to cure them the same way as you do the potatoes. After they have cured, hang them in pantyhose or mesh bags away from light. Ideal storage temperatures are 35-40ºF.

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Garlic

Harvest time is tricky when it comes to garlic and it varies greatly depending on your growing zone. Typically, you want to keep an eye on it and dig up when the second set of leaves starts to yellow. If you wait too long the cloves will begin to separate and it will not store as well. Once dug, cure in the same way you would potatoes and onions. Keep out the largest cloves for planting next year since the larger the cloves, the larger the head it grows. Store your cured garlic in a braid or in a mesh bag at 35-40ºF in complete darkness.

I store mine in a kitchen cabinet on an outer wall because it’s always chilly in that cabinet.

Winter Squash & Pumpkins

Winter squash and pumpkins are ready for harvest when the skin is nice and firm. When you harvest, you want to leave some of the stem attached. Cure for 10 days in a warm (75-80ºF) sunny location. Once cured, keep your squash and pumpkins in a cool location (55-60ºF).

Carrots, Turnips & Parsnips

Sand storage is one of the best ways I have found to store these root vegetables. Line the bottom of a 5-gallon bucket or other container with several inches of moist (not damp) sand. Lay out a layer of veggies so they aren’t touching each other. Cover them with a layer of sand and continue the process until the bucket is full. Cover the final layer with more sand. The box will be very heavy when it’s full, so be sure to keep that in mind. You want to keep your bucket in an area that stays just above freezing.

The only method that is better (in my opinion) than sand storage is keeping them in the ground and covered a thick layer of stray mulch. Unfortunately this isn’t often feasible for those of us that get several feet of snow through the winter.

Cabbage

When storing cabbage, you want to leave about 6″ of stalk attached and trim any loose outer leaves. Wrap your cabbage loosely in a plastic bag. I like to use grocery bags. Store them upside down in a well ventilated area that stays between 35-40ºF.

Apples

This is my favorite thing to fresh store. There is nothing like popping down to the basement to grab a crisp, juicy apple. Apples are best stored in shallow layers in storage baskets or ventilated crates. Keep them at a temperature that is just above freezing. They do produce ethylene gases, so do not store near vegetables. I like to give them a corner all of their own.

via 104Homestead

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