It is never too early to consider how you will deal with storing garden vegetables that you have at the end of the season.
The growing season still has time to go and many of us are in the middle of the vegetable gardening season.
Very few homes have the perfect storage conditions for fresh produce. However, we can all create spaces that will extend the length of time that we will be able to enjoy fresh vegetables.
Root cellars, and basements are great places for storing garden vegetables.
I recently had a run in with squirrels and found to my dismay that I had to keep platters and platters of tomatoes fresh long before I intended to pick them from the vines.
Fruits and vegetables can be divided into needing three conditions:
- Cool and dry – 50 to 60 degrees F and about 60% relative humidity – winter squash and pumpkins fall into this variety. Many basements have these conditions.
- Cold and dry – 32-40 degrees F and 65% relative humidity – onions and garlic like this condition and it also fits most refrigerators and many insulated garages.
- Cold and moist – 32-40 degrees F and 95 % relative humidity – the hardest to create. Perforated plastic bags in the fridge are in this range. Most fruits like these condition as do many tender vegetables.
Try Canning for Storing Garden Vegetables
You can extend your produce time by freezing and canning of course. In this case, storage is not a problem.
The ideal way to maintain the correct temp for the storage you want is a root cellar.
Other storage options are under a staircase, in unheated rooms, in outside stairwells, and in extra refrigerators to name just a few.
Freezing vegetables to make them last
One of the easiest ways to preserve the nutrients and taste of summer vegetables is to freeze them. I used to do this each spring when my family sent me fiddleheads from Maine which are not available in NC.
Most vegetable need to be blanched before you can freeze them. This means boiling whole or cut up vegetables for 1-2 minutes and them placing them in ice water. Doing this prevents freezer burn.
Frozen vegetables will keep for about a year.
This technique is not recommended for greens, potatoes and sweet potatoes, radishes and artichokes.
No matter how you intend to store your vegetables, harvesting them correctly is a key.
- Harvest vegetables in dry, cool weather is best because cold weather means more sugars and starches in the vegetables
- Brush off the dirt but cleaning is not necessary until they will be used.
- Store only the best produce. Don’t try to keep broken and bruised vegetables. Just use them soon.
- Clip the tops immediately so they do not suck the moisture from the roots.
Root cellars for storing garden vegetables
Underground root cellars use to be the main way to store potatoes, yams, carrots, beets and other root vegetables. This was because there was no refrigeration.
Today, root cellars have actually made a comeback, but their purpose is to keep extra food collected at harvest time from freezing and to keep food cool in the summer months so it won’t spoil.
My friend Jacki from Drought Smart Plants recently shared with me a project for a DIY root cellar.
Her tutorial deals with the excavation and building of the root cellar as well as her Sedum roof. You can view the tutorial at Drought Smart Plants. Thanks for sharing Jacki!
What do you do to extend the storage life of vegetables that you grow? Please share your experiences in the comment section below.
Brian J Wood
Friday 8th of August 2014
We used a root celler for masses of dahlia bulbs when I lived in Virginia in the 90s. Boxed them in hay straw and mouse/ rat/ squirrel proofed the place like maniacs until we couldn't think of any more invasion possibilities
Friday 8th of August 2014
HI Brian. I have to dig up Dahlias and caladiums each year. I used to dig up Elephant ears but they seem to over winter here. Carol