Storage Tips for Winter Vegetables

Storage Tips
Adapted from Richard Harrison, How to Store Vegetables in a Typical Suburban Home

FIRST, identify the areas in your house that do not freeze and may be suitable for storing vegetables.

Refrigerator, 40 degrees, 30-40% humidity
Carrots, celeriac, beets, apples, pears, kale, bok choi, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, turnip, rutabaga

Unheated entrance or attic or spare room, 40-50 degrees, 10-30% humidity
Winter squashes such as butternut, delicata, acorn squash, onions, garlic

Cellar, cool damp corner, 33-50 degrees, 30-50% humidity
Potatoes, sweet potatoes

SECOND, prepare the vegetables for storing. Each vegetable will be discussed below under its storage area. Before discussing each vegetable observe the following rules of thumb when storing vegetables.

*Never wash a vegetable that you are preparing for storage. Washing shortens storage life, sometimes by months.
*When storing in a plastic bag in the refrigerator make sure that you remove as much air from the bag as possible before storing.

Refrigerator

Beets
Cut the tops off. If the tops are in good shape wash them and cook them. Yum. Don’t wash the beets. Store them in a plastic bag in the back of the refrigerator. The tops where you cut off the greens might be a little rotty. Not to worry. When you peel them the insides will be great. Inside that plastic bag beets in the back of the fridge will keep for months.

Brussels sprouts
We usually cut the little sprouts off the stem and store them in a plastic bag in the back of the fridge like the carrots. They will keep for at least a couple of months. They will usually keep for up to six weeks.

Carrots
Store in a plastic bag in the back of the refrigerator. Carrots will keep for months this way. After being stored a long time there may be a white root substance on the carrot. Not to worry. Just peal it off. As long as the carrots are bright orange underneath they will taste wonderful. Organic carrots actually gain sweetness when stored.

Cabbage
Store cabbage in a plastic bag. When you take it out some of the outside leaves may look mildewed but not to worry. Simply strip off the outside leaves and the inside is as good as new. Cabbage will keep this way in the back of the fridge often for three months.

celeriac (celery root)Celeriac
Tops will probably be off. Store like carrots. If any part is a bit rotty when you take it out merely cut it off. Chances are the rest is just fine.

 

Collard Greens, Kale
These are not long keepers. Best to eat them within two or three weeks of the delivery. Immerse in cold water, wrap in a cloth dish towel, and place in your fridge.

Turnips, Rutabaga
Store like carrots.

Unheated Entrance, Attic Space or Unheated Spare Room
Make sure that this area doesn’t freeze. For example, a bulkhead might freeze.

The rule of thumb that I use for vegetables stored in this category are as follows:
*Store items one level deep on trays, preferably open at the bottom for air circulation. I often use the black trays that you get at garden centers when you buy plants. Great recycled item.
*With squash don’t let the items touch each other
*Make sure that some ventilation is feasible. For example store trays on a rack with some circulation
*Keep the area dark. This is particularly important for garlic and onions that will begin to sprout if exposed to light
*Inspect all items when taking something from storage. If there are signs of spoilage, noted below, use the item as soon as possible
*Always store the best specimens the longest. Use broken stem squash first.

Butternut squash
Has the longest storage life of any squash. It will sometimes last the whole winter if the storage location is cold and dry enough. If you see any spots developing use as soon as possible. Spots develop into rotty areas and eventually the whole core will rot, and the squash will be unusable. If you need to fix too much squash because it is spoiling simply cut up a whole bunch, steam it, and freeze the pieces for consumption later in the winter.

Delicata squash
Delicata does not store well. Use this squash within six weeks of the delivery. If delicata is starting to go it will probably be too late to salvage anything. It is too small a squash to recover rot.

Onions
The length of time that onions will store is highly dependent on the variety – the onions in the multi-farm winter share are storage onions and should last several months, especially if stored in a dark, cool area. When onions start to sprout they gradually become unusable. If you see an onion sprouting use it as soon as possible. If onions become soft they are rotten and should be removed from storage.

Cellar in a cool damp corner
The rules of thumb for the cellar storage are:
*Store items one level deep on trays as above.
*Some ventilation is helpful.
*Keep the area dark. This is particularly important for potatoes that will begin to sprout if exposed to light
*Inspect all items when taking something from storage. If there are signs of spoilage, noted below, use the item as soon as possible
*Always store the best specimens the longest.

Potatoes
Potatoes will usually store 2-3 months. Potatoes specifically noted as a storage variety will often do better. If possible store on flat trays. The benefit is the avoidance of the “bad apple” syndrome, and one can inspect all the potatoes as you use them up permitting you to take ones that are beginning to sprout. A soft potato usually means that it is rotten, but cut it up to make sure.

Sweet potatoes
Treat sweet potatoes in the same manner as regular potatoes. They will probably not keep as long so plan to use them in 1-2 months.

Popcorn
Unshelled corn should be stored at temperatures near 32F and high relative humidity. Once or twice a week, shell a few kernels and try popping them. When the test kernels are popping well and tasting good, shell and store the rest of the kernels. Store the kernels in sealed, airtight containers. If stored popcorn fails to pop, it may be too dry. Add 1 tablespoon of water to a quart of popcorn. Cover and shake at frequent intervals until the popcorn has absorbed the water. After 3 or 4 days, test pop a few kernels to see if it is ready. A number of winter shareholders have had good luck putting the cob of popcorn directly into a microwave.

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