How To Store Fall Vegetables by Anna Burke

Pumpkin patch

Worried about where to store all your fall produce?

Believe it or not, the first frost is approaching and it is time to think about bringing in that bumper crop. Specifically speaking, it is time to think about storing that bumper crop. If you’re like me, you plant a large fall crop to enjoy all winter long. Where and how you store that crop is crucial.

Ideal Storage Conditions

The ideal storage conditions for your harvest varies from crop to crop. In general, crops prefer temperature regulated storage at a certain humidity. Unheated basements, refrigerators, or root cellars all make excellent storage facilities for crops that require cool, moist storage. Spare rooms are ideal for crops that require warmer temperatures

Freezing and canning are excellent alternatives to storing vegetables. Flash freezing preserves the flavor and nutrients of your harvest. Canning requires shelf space and time but once stored cans do not take up space in your fridge or freezer.

It is in your best interest to invest in a root cellar or additional freezer or refrigerator if you plan on storing a significant amount of food. Converting part of a basement into a root cellar is relatively simple. Regardless of the storage method you choose, be sure to select only vegetables harvested at peak maturity and in pristine condition.

Vegetable Varieties

Planting storage varieties helps preserve taste and quality. Storage carrots, for instance, keep better than varieties grown for fresh eating. Storage vegetables are more resistant to rot and bruising than their tender counterparts and are well worth the investment.

Root Crops

Root crops prefer cold, moist storage. Root cellars, refrigerators, or a garden pit all make excellent storage sites.

Beets

Fall beets are beautiful to behold. Keep their beauty and taste by harvesting after a few frosts. The benefit of a good beet, or a carrot, turnip, or parsnip, is that there is no urgency to the harvest. These vegetables store in the ground.

Fall is a busy time for many of us. If you can’t get the beet crop in after the first few frosts, mulch the beds with straw. Beets keep until the ground freezes completely. After harvest, wipe off excess soil and trim the tops to a half inch or so. Store your beets in perforated bags or packed in layers in a box, crate, or bin. Separate the layers with moist sand or peat moss.

Carrots

The storage requirements for carrots are the same as those for beets. Let them experience a few frosts before harvest and store them in cold, moist storage. Ideal temperatures are between 32 and 40 degrees with 90% to 95% humidity.

Carrots store well. They also undergo a chemical process during the cold, winter months that make them sweeter. Plant a storage variety for your kitchen and leave some fresh eating carrot varieties in the ground. Mulch them after a few frosts. Come early spring these carrots will be sweet and crunchy.

Tip: Cover your overwintered carrots with clear plastic in the early spring. This thaws the ground enough for some very early harvests.

Parsnips

Parsnips also overwinter. Harvest some in the fall after a few good frosts for winter consumption. This sweetens their flavor. Leave the rest in the ground until spring.

Potatoes

Potatoes enjoy cool temperatures and high humidity. Cellars and refrigerators offer appropriate conditions, as long as the potatoes are not exposed to light. Light stimulates sprouting. Be sure no potatoes are badly bruised or damaged as this will result in widespread rot.

Sweet Potatoes

Despite their name, sweet potatoes require very different storage facilities than regular potatoes. Their skin is delicate and bruises easily. Take care when harvesting and handling.

Sweet potatoes require a curing process before storage. Set them in a room or greenhouse at a temperature of 85 to 90 degrees for four to seven days. After that, store sweet potatoes in well-ventilated crates or sacks in a dark room at temperatures no lower than 55 degrees. 60 degrees is the ideal storage temperature for sweet potatoes.

Turnips

Store turnips the same way beets, carrots, and parsnips are stored. They too can be mulched until late fall.

Cole Crops

Broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, and collards all keep in the refrigerator. Most do not keep for as long as root crops and so freezing is the best alternative.

Broccoli

Broccoli keeps for a week in the fridge. Harvest your broccoli when the head is tight and green (or purple, depending on the variety). Store it in a perforated bag. As it does not keep for long, freeze the rest of the harvest for winter use.

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts last longer than broccoli and even withstand mild frosts, as long as they are harvested before the first big freeze. They last up to three weeks in the fridge in perforated storage bags.

Cabbage

Cabbage is the exception to the cole storage rules. Cabbages easily last months in the refrigerator or root cellar. Don’t be alarmed if the cabbage starts to look mildewy or wilted. Peel away the outer leaves when you are ready to cook. The inside of the cabbage retains its freshness.

Cabbages store well when covered with moist soil. This author has also observed that cabbages do fine stacked in a single layer with some air circulation in a root cellar, although this is not ideal. Just be wary about where you store your cabbage. This crop has a particularly strong smell and can affect the taste of other vegetables.

Cauliflower

Cauliflower lasts two weeks in the fridge in perforated bags. As with broccoli, store the surplus for later enjoyment.

Collards, Spinach, and Kale

Harvest and wash collards, spinach, and kale, then place in the fridge in perforated bags or another breathable container. They last about two weeks.

Squash

Squash are similar to sweet potatoes in their storage needs. Cure squash the same way you cure sweet potatoes. This heals minor surface wounds and helps the crop develop a thick skin. Cure squash and pumpkins at 80 to 85 degrees for ten days. Store at temperatures between 50 and 55 degrees. Be sure to keep the crop dry as moisture leads to rot. Proper air circulation is helpful.

Learning proper storage techniques only takes a few minutes and can preserve your harvest longer. Store your fall vegetables at the appropriate temperature and humidity. This ensures fresh, healthy vegetables on your table all winter long.

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