Best Produce For Long Term Storage
Everyone has their favorite must-grow fruits and vegetables. Most people grow things like lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries, herbs… but most of those items don’t store well over the winter unless they are dried, frozen, canned, pickled, or otherwise preserved.
There are other items that should be in every garden because they can last over the winter in storage without too much degradation of quality. These items typically have thick skins or dry out well to last longer.
Pumpkins & Winter Squashes
Pumpkins and winter squashes (such as acorn and butternut) have very thick skins that help them last a long time in storage. As long as they are stored where air can reach them to discourage mold growth and rotting, most pumpkins and winter squashes can last for several months in storage without losing much quality.
The best way to store them is to wait to harvest them until their skins have begun to harden and turn dull and the stems have turned woody. Leave part of the stem intact, as it will protect the delicate inner flesh from being invaded by bacteria that can start breaking it down.
You should cure them in a warm, dry spot with good air circulation for about a week, or up to two. It should be about 75-85 degrees (F) in the room. This will allow their skins to continue to toughen before final storage.
Once they are cured, do not allow them to be in temperatures under 50 degrees (F).
Onions & Garlic
Onions and garlic both store well as long as they are properly cured and stored. They should be left to cure for several weeks in a warm, dry spot, but not in the sun. Then the tops can be trimmed away and the bulbs stored in an airy spot, or the tops can be left on and braided together to be hung for storage.
Another common way to store garlic and onions is to put them into pantyhose and tie a knot between each bulb to keep them separate. This keeps air circulating around them and helps prevent mold and rot.
Most root vegetables store quite well for months at a time, especially if they are stored correctly. Radishes are one major exception, as they quickly begin to turn pithy once they are harvested., but the majority of root vegetables store for several weeks to several months.
One easy way to keep root vegetables for the winter is to mulch them in the ground with a thick layer of fallen leaves or straw. If you live in an area that gets many hard freezes, this isn’t the best technique, but in areas without a lot of snow and ice, it works perfectly well.
If you must dig your root crops, leave a tiny bit of the stems attached (about 1/4 to 1/2 inch) but remove all greens, as they can rot quickly and cause the roots themselves to rot. The small amount of stem that remains will keep the skin of the root from being damaged and will help preserve the root longer.
Root crops should be stored stem end up, and you can store them in damp sawdust to help them last even longer in storage.
Root vegetables that store well include:
Potatoes aren’t exactly root crops. They are tubers. They don’t have greens attached to the top, so they don’t need to be stored the same way other root crops are. They should be cured at 50-60 degrees (F) for a few weeks before being stored somewhere cool and humid. They can also be wrapped individually in newspaper to help prevent any spoiled potatoes from affecting the others.
When dried, corn can last for months in storage. There are several varieties that store well, but dent corn or field corn typically las the longest when dried. Sweet corn actually tastes even sweeter when dried, and some people even compare the flavor to candy! You can add dried sweet corn to soups and other recipes.
You can also grind it into grits or cornmeal, but this will decrease its storage potential. It’s best to grind it when needed instead of storing it in its ground form.
Dried corn can actually last up to 10 years in storage if it is kept cool and dry, but it will be at its best for about one year. After that, the flavor may degrade, but it will still be edible.
Dried corn on the cob can even be used as a heating source when no wood or other material is available.
Storing Vegetables Over Winter
Here is a list that will help you determine how to best store a particular crop, and how long they typically last in storage. I’ve only included produce that will typically store for at least one month.
- Beets – Store at 32 degrees (F) at 95% relative humidity for 1-3 months
- Brussels Sprouts – Store at 32 degrees (F) at 90-95% relative humidity for 3-5 weeks
- Cabbage – Store at 32 degrees (F) at 90-95% relative humidity for 3-4 months
- Carrots – Store at 32 degrees (F) at 90-95% relative humidity for 4-6 months
- Celeriac – Store at 32 degrees (F) at 90-95% relative humidity for 3-4 months
- Celery – Store at 32 degrees (F) at 90-95% relative humidity for 2-3 months
- Chinese Cabbage – Store at 32 degrees (F) at 90-95% relative humidity for 1-2 months
- Corn – Store at 32-70 degrees (F) at 65-75% relative humidity for 1 year
- Dried Beans – Store at 32-50 degrees (F) at 65-70% relative humidity for 1 year
- Garlic – Store at 32 degrees (F) at 65-70% relative humidity for 6-7 months
- Horseradish – Store at 30-32 degrees (F) at 90-95% relative humidity for 10-12 months
- Jerusalem Artichoke – Store at 31-32 degrees (F) at 90-95% relative humidity for 2-5 months
- Leeks – Store at 32 degrees (F) at 90-95% relative humidity for 1-3 months
- Onions – Store at 32 degrees (F) at 65-70% relative humidity for 5-8 months
- Parsnips – Store at 32 degrees (F) at 90-95% relative humidity for 2-6 months
- Dried Peppers – Store at 32-50 degrees (F) at 60-70% relative humidity for 6 months
- Potatoes – Store at 38-40 degrees (F) at 90% relative humidity for 5-8 months
- Pumpkins – Store at 50-55 degrees (F) at 70-75% relative humidity for 2-3 months
- Rutabaga – Store at 32 degrees (F) at 90-95% relative humidity for 2-4 months
- Salsify – Store at 32 degrees (F) at 90-95% relative humidity for 2-4 months
- Sweet Potatoes – Store at 55-60 degrees (F) at 85-90% relative humidity for 4-6 months
- Turnips – Store at 32 degrees (F) at 90-95% relative humidity for 4-5 months
- Winter Radishes – Store at 32 degrees (F) at 90-95% relative humidity for 2-4 months
- Winter Squash – Store at 50-55 degrees (F) at 70-75% relative humidity for 3-6 months