University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
VEGETABLE STORAGE AT HOME
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
In-ground pits or containers,
unheated cellars, and cool porches or rooms are some of the locations around
the home you can store extra garden produce for fall and winter months. Knowing which vegetables store best, and
their requirements, will ensure the longest storage life. A leaflet from the University of Washington
provides these details, plus details and diagrams on constructing various
Tomatoes can be stored for up to two
months, celery and leeks up to three months.
With proper storage beets can last up to four months, and up to five
months for pumpkins and squash. Longest
lasting in storage are carrots and potatoes for up to six months, and onions up
to seven months.
Some general tips during harvest to
ensure longest storage life include:
when fruit is dry, not too soon after a rain, as moist fruit easily rots.
bruising fruit when harvesting; handle gently.
early in the morning to avoid “hot” vegetables, or allow to cool before
harvest healthy, firm fruit and not ones with disease or soft spots.
Two tips are important on mixing
varieties. If also storing apples, keep
them separate. They give off ethylene
gas which can cause potatoes to sprout and carrots to become bitter. On the
other side, potatoes may cause apples to have a musty flavor. The other tip is to keep cabbages, turnips,
kale and similar outside in storage.
They too can give their odors to apples and fruits, as well as permeate
a home if stored indoors.
Pick green tomatoes and place in one
or two layers in shallow trays or boxes to ripen. Place paper between layers, or around each
fruit. Ripening will take up to a month
when cool (55 degrees F) or two weeks if warmer (65 degrees).
For kale, endive, and leeks, mulch
in the garden until a hard frost. Pull
with their rootball still attached, and store upright and close together in
moist sand or soil. Do not store with
cabbage. These need to stay very moist
(90 percent relative humidity) for longest storage.
Root crops such as turnips, beets,
carrots, horseradish, and parsnips can be stored in the garden with a one foot
mulch of weed-free straw if no rodents are around. Parsnips and horseradish, however, can be
harmed by freezing and thawing during winter.
For easier access during winter, or if rodents may be a problem, store
root vegetables in a basement storage room, or “root cellar”. Keep rutabagas and turnips outside, though,
as they can give off odors indoors.
If storing root vegetables indoors,
dig them when the soil is dry. Cut the
plant tops off one-half inch above the crown.
Store them in layers of moist sand or sphagnum peat moss in plastic bags
with quarter-inch holes. These really
need to be kept below 40 degrees (F) but above freezing, as warmer temperatures
cause them to sprout and become woody. A
refrigerator may be needed to keep such temperatures. I have an old one in the basement just for such
Pumpkins and most winter squash
should be harvested when mature, before frost.
You can tell if they are mature as the skin will be hard and difficult
to scratch with a fingernail. Leave an
inch of stem on when cutting, then “cure” near a furnace or warm area (80 to 85
degrees F) for 10
days. This will harden the rind further,
and heal any cuts. Then store dry
between 50 and 60 degrees. Below this
and they can get chilling damage. Above
this and they can get stringy. Acorn
squash should be handled similarly, only don’t cure as such warm temperatures
will make them stringy.
Potatoes are a commonly grown and
stored crop that should be harvested after the vines have died down, and when
the ground is dry. Cure in dark and 45
to 60 degrees for two weeks after harvest.
Then store at 35 to 40 degrees and moist. As already mentioned, don’t store with
apples. Remove sprouts if they appear,
indicating too high storage temperature.
Onions are the other very commonly
grown crop that lasts long in storage.
Harvest these and garlic when mature, and dry well. If grown from sets, or with thick necks, they
may be hard to keep. Cure harvested
bulbs for two to three weeks spread on newspapers, and out of sunlight. Skins should be papery and roots dried before
storage. These are best stored cool
(just above freezing), and dry in a well-ventilated location such as an attic
or unheated room.
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