Storage Tips

There is a lot of information on the net about how to store vegetables. What follows are some tips that you may find helpful. A quick reference is the Storage Guidelines for Fruits and Vegetables from Cornell University Extension. The National Center for Home Food Preservation is also highly recommended for information about food storage.

See also our page on Fermentation for Preservation, Taste, and Nutrition, which gives some recipes, links, and guidelines for fermenting vegetables found in your share.  Lacto-fermentation is an easy, convenient, healthful way to preserve vegetables that was used traditionally prior to the advent of refrigeration.  It involves no cooking or canning.

Here’s a useful and fun demonstration about how to blanch and store greens.

Storage Tips
Adapted from Richard Harrison, How to Store Vegetables in a Typical Suburban Home, Updated 10/14/2014 by Jane Hammer

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

Refrigerator or Cool Cellar, 33-50 degrees, 90% humidity
Apples, beets, bok choi, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cabbage, celeriac, kale and leafy greens, leeks, pears, rutabaga, turnip.  Since apples are known to emit a ripening agent, store apples separately, ideally, from root veggies.

To maintain high humidity store in plastic bags with some holes for some airflow.  Carrots and other roots can do quite well also at 33-50 degrees buried in moist leaves or sand (you’ll need to periodically re-moisten the leaves or sand with a watering can.)

Kitchen, pantry, basement, or cooler room 55-70 degrees, 70% humidity
Winter squashes such as butternut, delicata, acorn squash, sweet potatoes. Shallots do well in this same environment.

Cellar, dark, cool 33-50 degrees, lower humidity
Onions, garlic: do best in 50-70% humidity
Potatoes do best in 80-90% humidity.  Ideally bring potatoes back to near room temperature in the week before you eat them (just transfer to your kitchen).

SECOND, prepare the vegetables for storing.  Please observe the following general rules of thumb when storing vegetables and then look at the specifics for each vegetable.

*Never wash a vegetable that you are preparing for storage. Washing shortens storage life, sometimes by months.  That said, the smaller bags of carrots you’ll get in your share are often washed so that they can be better inspected prior to packing.  If you keep them moist, they can keep very well.
*When storing in a plastic bag in the refrigerator make sure that you remove as much air from the bag as possible before storing.

*Veggies in the drier storage areas (like squash) store ideally in open bins, one-layer deep with plenty of air circulation.  (canning jar boxes or old seedling trays are good for this.)
*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, remove the piece from storage and use the item as soon as possible.
*Always store the best specimens the longest.

Veggies in alphabetical order:
Beets Refrigerator or cool cellar in plastic bag with holes
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 Refrigerator or cool cellar, or Freezer in a plastic bag
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 a month or so this way. Alternatively, for longer storage, place in a plastic freezer bag and store in the freezer.

Butternut squash Unheated Entrance, Attic Space or Unheated Spare Room
Has the longest storage life of any squash. It will sometimes last the whole winter if the storage location is moderately cool 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.

Carrots Refrigerator or cool cellar, in plastic bag or buried in leaves.  Keep dark.
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.  Carrots and other roots can do quite well also at 33-50 degrees buried in moist leaves or sand (you’ll need to periodically re-moisten the leaves or sand with a watering can.)

Cabbage Refrigerator or cool cellar, or Fermented
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 Refrigerator or cool cellar in plastic bag with some ventilation.
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.

leafy greensCollard Greens, Kale, other leafy greens Refrigerator, Freezer, Dehydrated, or Fermented.
These are not long keepers. Best to eat them within two weeks of the delivery. Immerse in cold water, wrap in a cloth dish towel, and place in your fridge. Or remove stems and slice or tear and blanch and freeze (see video link above).  Or remove stems and tear and dehydrate.  Or, ferment as per directions at the fermentation… link above.

Delicata squash Unheated Entrance, Attic Space or Unheated Spare Room
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.

Garlic Cellar, cool and damp
Store in paper bags or open box. Likes to be stored at temps between 33 and 40 degrees.  A closed jar in the refrigerator can work as well.

Leeks Refrigerator or cool cellar, or Freezer
Remove any yellowing leaves, store in a plastic bag or crisper drawer in fridge. Or chop to desired cooking size and freeze.

Onions Cellar, cool and damp
Store in paper bags or open box.  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. Onions like to be stored at temps between 33 and 40 degrees. 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.

Potatoes Cellar, cool, damp corner
Potatoes will usually store 2-3 months. Potatoes like to be stored at 45 degrees with high humidity. 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.  Plastic bags are not recommended for storing potatoes.

Popcorn Cellar, cool, damp, or room temperature if using within a couple of months
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.

Shallots Unheated Entrance, Attic Space or Unheated Spare Room in open containers or paper bags.

Sweet potatoes Unheated Entrance, Attic Space or Unheated Spare Room in paper bag or tray
“Sweeties” store best on trays or in paper bags at temps between 55 and 65 and relative humidity around 60-70%. They can do well in these conditions for many months. Plastic bags are not recommended for storing sweeties.

Turnips, Rutabaga Refrigerator or cool cellar, or Fermented
Store like carrots, or grate and ferment like cabbage (sauerkraut).

2 Responses to Storage Tips

  1. Gretta says:

    October 6, 2010: I’ve moved the following comments from the old Shared Harvest CSA News blog. Gretta

    Amy Prussack said…
    Thank you for the very helpful info! We will start preparing some storage areas this weekend. September 27, 2008

    marissa said…
    Thanks for the tips! I was hoping for some information on how to store the daikon radish (the long, thick white root?) if that is in fact what we have! Recipes would also be appreciated! Thanks again for the great food and hard work. November 3, 2008

    Gretta Anderson said…
    Hmmm, I’m not sure about the best way to store the diakon. My best guess is to store it like you would many root vegetables – in a plastic bag in the fridge. I stir fry diakon with Asian greens, peppers, carrots, onion and whatever veggies need to be used next. Julia, at Marquita Farm, has posted some nice recipes for diakon here: http://www.mariquita.com/recipes/daikon.html November 3, 2008

    Blake said…
    I found that the sweet potatoes kept all winter, no problems. I just left them in the paper bag they came in, and stuck them in my spare room (aprox. 60 degrees). Didn’t lose a single one all winter, still had a couple kicking around come April. October 5, 2010

  2. Pingback: Come and Get It! First Fall CSA Oct 25! | Moraine Farm CSA

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