The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Eating Fresh Vegetables All Winter

parsnipsThe trick to keeping your storage vegetables fresh all winter is understanding the type of conditions they prefer.  Storage conditions can be measured by temperature, humidity, ventilation, and darkness.  Nearly all crops like it dark and airy, but each vegetable has a favorite range of temperature and humidity conditions.

In practice, I divide our storers up into two main categories --- cool, wet storers and warm, dry storers.  Cool, wet storers thrive in root cellars and can also be kept well in simpler storage operations like mulched garden rows, storage mounds ("clamps"), trenches, a basement, or the crisper drawer in your fridge.  Warm, dry storers will do much better in your attic, an unheated room, or under your kitchen sink.

I'm vastly oversimplifying by dividing crops into these two categories, but it's far too easy to get carried away trying to provide a half dozen different storage conditions to keep all of your crops happy.  The table below gives some storage data on common vegetables:

Vegetable
Optimal storage conditions
My storage conditions
My storage location
Beet
32 - 40 F, 90 - 95% humidity cool, moist
haven't done it yet
Cabbage
32 - 40 F, 80 - 90% humidity cool, moist
haven't done it yet
Carrot
32 - 40 F, 90 - 95% humidity
cool, moist
haven't done it yet
Garlic
32 - 50 F, 60 - 70% humidity warm, dry
kitchen shelf
Onion
32 - 50 F, 60 - 70% humidity warm, dry
kitchen shelf
Parsnip
32 - 40 F, 90 - 95% humidity cool, moist
haven't done it yet
Potato
32 - 40 F, 80 - 90% humidity cool, moist
storage mound
Sweet Potato
50 - 60 F, 60 - 70% humidity
warm, dry
under the kitchen sink
Turnip
32 - 40 F, 90 - 95% humidity cool, moist
haven't done it yet
Winter Squash (including Pumpkin)
50 - 60 F, 60 - 70% humidity warm, dry
under the kitchen sink

Despite ignoring some of the optimal conditions, I've had great luck keeping onions, winter squash, and sweet potatoes fresh until they're all eaten up.  (In fact, we still have some of last year's sweet potatoes to finish up as this year's are curing!)  Don't get too caught up in thinking you have to build a fancy root cellar before you can enter the world of storage vegetables.


This post is part of our Storage Vegetables lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:





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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.



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