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Storing veggies at home

In-ground pits or containers, unheated cellars and cool porches or rooms are some of the locations around the home where you can store extra garden produce for the fall and winter months.

Knowing which vegetables store best, and what theyrequire, will ensure the longest storage life. A leaflet from the University of Washington provides these details, plus further information and diagrams on constructing various storage areas.

Tomatoes can be stored for up to two months, celery and leeks up to three.

Some general tips during harvest to ensure longest storage life include:

Harvest when fruit is dry, not too soon after a rain, as moist fruit easily rots.
Avoid bruising fruit when harvesting; handle gently.
Harvest early in the morning to avoid hot vegetables, or allow to cool before storing.
Only harvest healthy, firm fruit, 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 vegetables 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 (55F) or two weeks if warmer (65).

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% relative humidity) for longest storage.

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