Storing the Fall Bounty
We have all worked hard in our gardens and on our farms, reaping the
all season long, from spring greens and peas to main season
broccoli and green beans. We’ve been canning pickles and salsa,
freezing beans and corn, and drying herbs so that we can enjoy the
flavor of a summer meal while warming up near the woodstove after a long
day on the ski slopes (at least this is how I like to spend my
winters). Now we are bringing in the fall crops, which thankfully do
not take as much effort to store as all the summer crops, but it is
handy to know the optimal conditions for their long-term storage.
There are three main categories for which we can divide crops by for storage,
cold and moist, cool and dry, and warm and dry.
Cold and Moist Storage
(Beets, Carrots, Parsnips, Turnips & Rutabagas)
Cold and Moist storage requires temperatures between 32 and 40 degrees F
and 80 to 95 % relative humidity, which can be achieved in a
refrigerator or a cold, moist cellar. Crops stored best under these
conditions are beets, carrots, parsnips, turnips, and rutabagas. They
prefer the higher end of the humidity range, between 90 and 95 %. These
crops should be late maturing varieties harvested in the fall, rinsed
(but not scrubbed), with their tops trimmed to within a half inch, and
once dry they should be stored in plastic bags with small perforated
holes. This helps keep in the moisture while allowing airflow.
Potatoes can also be stored with these same crops, but prefer the
humidity levels between 80 and 90 %. Be sure to wait for harvest until
after their tops have died back and dried up, being careful not to
bruise during harvest. They should not be washed or scrubbed, but the
soil can be gently brushed from the tubers. They need to be cured for
one to two weeks in a warm (60 – 75 degrees F), moist, and dark
location. Under these conditions, these crops will store for four
months or longer.
Cool and Dry Storage
- (Onions & Garlic)
Cool and Dry storage requires temperatures between 32 and 50 degrees F
and 60 – 70 % relative humidity. Onions and garlic store well under
these conditions. For onions, choose late maturing varieties with thin
necks for long-term storage. Harvest once the tops have drooped over.
Harvest onions on a dry day and allow to cure in the sun for several
days. At this point, trim the tops to about an inch and allow them to
continue curing for another two to three weeks in a dry and shady
location. Once cured, they can be stored in mesh bags or another
breathable container for long-term storage. Garlic, on the other hand,
should be harvested when about 1/2 to 2/3 of the leaves have turned
yellow. Allow to cure in a dry, well-ventilated location for about 10
days. Trim the roots and tops and store in paper bags. While garlic
prefers an even lower humidity of about 50 %, we store ours along with
our onions in our unheated spare bedroom and they last until spring.
Warm and Dry Storage - (Pumpkins & Winter Squash)
Warm and Dry storage requires temperatures between 50-60 degrees and 60 –
75 % relative humidity. Pumpkins and winter squash store well under
these conditions and can be treated similarly, although pumpkins prefer
slightly higher humidity. It is important for long-term storage to wait
for harvest until the fruits are fully mature, which can be tricky
since the fruit often looks mature before it has fully ripened. It is
safe to harvest once the skins have hardened and cannot be punctured by
your fingernail. Acorn squash will develop an orange spot where the
fruit has laid in contact with the ground. It is very important to
harvest before the frost hits as frost damage will shorten their shelf
life dramatically. Harvest leaving the stem intact. Removing the stem
will leave an open wound that is susceptible to spoilage. After harvest,
cure at temperatures between 80 – 85 degrees for about two weeks before
moving to long-term storage. Although, acorn squash should not be
cured and require lower storage temps of about 45 to 50 degrees F to
maintain their good flavor and texture. Your squash and pumpkins will
store best if laid in a single layer about an inch apart rather than in a
pile. Attics, spare bedrooms, under the bed, and closets are often with
the ideal temperature range.
So, now as the cool weather settles in, you can finally put your feet up
knowing that you have stored away your bounty. Jars are filled, the
freezer is packed, the root cellar and spare room are loaded with
goodies and you’re just about ready to browse through next season’s seed
catalogs and dream about doing it all over again!
by Megen Hall, High Mowing Organic Seeds'