Photo via The Seasonal Homestead
A plentiful fall garden harvest means extra produce to last you throughout the winter – if you store it correctly. The storing of produce relies entirely on being in the right temperature, and receiving the correct amount of humidity and ventilation. Since not all produce is the same, let’s take a quick look a this simple guide to how you can store and maintain fruits and vegetables throughout the winter. And keep these storage concepts in mind when you’re planning your garden for next year so you can store and preserve your peak harvest too!
Where to Store
Choosing the right location to store your harvested fruits and vegetables is key in ensuring they’re in the best, most preserving environment. This includes places like:
- Cool, Dry Basements
- Entryways/Unheated Crawl Spaces
- Root Cellars
There’s also the buried metal container method: start by placing a metal container into the ground, drilling holes in the bottom for drainage and keeping the rim two inches above the ground. Place straw at the bottom of the container, then start putting in your vegetables; placing straw between each layer. Place mulch over top of the container and secure from critters.
Most produce needs to be stored between 32-38℉. However, some vegetables like sweet potatoes and squash prefer a higher temperature, between 50-60℉. Additionally, many different kinds of produce require a certain amount of humidity to maintain its freshness.
For a more specific guide to the ideal temperature and humidity for your produce, here’s a helpful sheet.
Each produce item has an average storage life between 2 and 6 months, depending on what it is.
For items that don’t store well this way, like tomatoes, peppers, and many different fruits, try freezing your produce. Here are some fruits and vegetables that have been known to freeze well:
- Cherries (remove pit before freezing)
- Fresh Herbs
Another method of storing is pickling. In addition to the classic cucumber, a variety of different vegetables can be pickled, like green beans, carrots, red onions, okra, and more! Check out this complete guide to pickling to learn how to pickle pretty much everything.
To ensure that your storage process is a success, keep these things in mind:
- Examine your produce BEFORE storing – if it looks bruised or indicates any kind of rot, use it not instead of storing it.
- Make sure to remove any excess soil from root crops, but don’t wash them as this can lead to damaged skin and poor storability.
- Make sure that the area you’re storing your produce in is kept dark, the correct temperature for the produce you’re storing, and has adequate ventilation.
- Ensure the storage area is rodent proof and clean.
- Discard or compost any produce that’s past its average storage life.
- If you decide to freeze your fruits/vegetables, make sure to use freezer safe bags/storage containers.
- If you’re canning or pickling, read up on the instructions and follow the directions closely to follow food safety protocols.