Saturday, March 17, 2012

Vegetable Storage

This article is about options besides
canning or freezing, but these are
Tendersweets and went into my freezer.
       Why think about storage for vegetables now? Because one method of storing vegetables is to leave them in the ground until you need them! Now, before you plant your garden, is when you want to consider if you want to use this storage method. Planting your choices together will make harvesting much easier.
       First thing to consider is what vegetables this method works for.
       Cabbage and brussel sprouts will continue to produce until well after the first frosts. Twisting the entire plant to loosen the root is one method of keeping cabbage from maturing further while you leave it in the ground.
       Jerusalem artichokes keep best when left in the ground until you need them. Mulch with leaves or straw to make access easier.
       Harvest kale as you need it for Christmas and beyond, even in colder climates. No special care needed.
       For root crops, cover them with a thick layer of straw or leaves to protect them against alternate freezing and thawing and make digging easier. Place stakes at both ends of rows so you can locate the vegetables if there is snow. Cold is said to improve the flavor of vegetables stored this way.
      I've seen questions concerning storage of other crops and will answer those here too.
      Store apples separately at close to 32 degrees as possible. Apples pick up flavors from some vegetables and may make carrots taste bitter. Chose varieties that mature in late fall and are free of damage. Do not store windfalls. Store in crates that can be stacked rather than deep bins, where fruit at the bottom of the pile will be damaged.
      Carrots can be left in the ground until harvest, under a thick layer of straw, or in pits outside, or they can be stored in a box of wet sand or sawdust. Thicker varieties store best this way. Dig them, let them dry a bit in the sun, cut the tops, leaving two inches of green, then layer in boxes with sand or sawdust between layers. They can touch, but don't crowd. Store at 32-34 degrees. Should be good for four or five months.  This works for beets too, but the storage period is only one to three months.
      Onions like a cool, dry place, like an attic. Late maturing varieties with a strong taste are the best keepers. Store only onions with thin necks that are dry. Harvest after most of the necks have fallen over.  Cure them for several weeks in a warm, dry, well-ventilated area, either in sun or shade. Place in open-weave bags or open-slated crates. Bags saved from store-bought turkeys are perfect for this.
       Potatoes can stay in the ground for about six weeks after most of the tops have died down. Dig, rinse off most of the dirt, being careful not to bruise the potatoes, and dry for a few hours. Do not leave in the sun. Remove any that are immature, damaged, or showing signs of rot. Store in boxes that allow ventilation, at 40 to 50 degrees. If the storage area is cooler than this, move them to a warmer space for a week or two before you eat them. Potatoes can be stored outside in a mound. Describing this without a visual is beyond my descriptive talents.
       While it seems a bit early to think of storage, making plans now may allow you the time you need to consider what options will work best for you, and to get set up to store the coming bounty.

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