Wouldn’t you just love to enjoy fresh potatoes from your garden in January? How about the crunch of home-grown carrots, beets and apples all winter? You can, the secret is in the after-harvest storage. Use these ideas for storing fresh garden vegetables and fruits so you’ll be eating good from your own sustainable stock pile of homegrown produce all winter long.
Potatoes are a staple garden item that can be easily stored and kept fresh all winter. After digging spuds from the garden soil wipe off with dry paper towel (no washing) and spread out in a single layer in a protected area to dry out for a few days. After the potatoes have cured, locate a cool, dry place for over-winter storage and get creative with methods of keeping the spuds out-of-the-way, yet protected from light, moisture and freezing temperatures. An old chest of drawers placed in an unheated basement is perfect for storing Irish and sweet potatoes. A plastic clothes basket, cardboard box or garbage can lined with newspaper can house fresh spuds all winter. Place a layer of newspaper between each layer of potatoes when stacking inside a container. A simple storage solution that provides easy potato access is to create a tower of spuds is to place an open egg carton on the basement floor, top with a single layer of potatoes, add another open egg carton, then more potatoes and build a tower with all harvested spuds. Cover tower with an old towel or sheet to prevent light from hitting the potatoes. Take inventory of stored spuds once a month, discarding any that show signs of decay.
How to Store Root Vegetables
Many gardeners store root vegetables right where they are grown – in the garden soil with a layer of heavy mulch on top. This over-winter storage method can work and is certainly the easiest method, but repeated winter freezing and thaws can cause the root vegetables to be ‘heaved’ out of the soil and result in freezing and food loss. Also, hungry critters are on the prowl for anything they can find to eat during the long, cold winter months, so it is safer to harvest the root vegetables and bring them indoors for over-winter storage.
Harvest the vegetables and wipe off the garden soil with a dry paper towel, then spread them out in a single layer overnight so the skin’s surface will dry. Place moist sawdust in a five gallon bucket, then add a layer of carrots, beets, parsnips or other root vegetable you may be storing. Add another layer of moist sawdust, then another layer of veggies and continue the layering until the bucket is full. Use a different bucket for each different root vegetable. Place lid on top, leaving slightly ajar for air circulation and place bucket in a cool, dry place. Eat root vegetables that are showing signs of softening first and pour out the contents of the bucket once a month and discard any veggies that have rotten places on them. Repack buckets and re-moisten sawdust if needed.
Nothing beats a second refrigerator for storing fruits over the winter. Nothing fancy, nothing large, just a refrigerator that works and can be plugged in at fruit harvest time and unplugged when the last apple or pear has been eaten. Garden vegetables can be stored for the long haul in a refrigerator, but don’t mix fruits and vegetables in the same fridge for winter storage. Ripe fruits give off ethylene gas that hasten the deterioration of ripe vegetables and they would not last throughout the winter.