Some fruit and vegetables benefit from storage in the refrigerator, while others benefit from storage at room temperature. How do you store freshly harvested vegetables for the coming winter? We will dive in and explain a few methods for keeping your vegetables fresh.
Fruit and vegetable storage conditions to think about:
The place you keep your vegetables is important. There are key environments for each type of vegetable. It can make or break how long your food will last. Here are some key factors to consider.
Do you keep them in the absolute dark? Or will they be ok on the counter or in a bright spot. At the end of this article there are some storage suggestions for the best light for storing different types of vegetables and fruit.
Keeping your vegetables in a temperature controlled place like the refrigerator, freezer or just a cool place like a root cellar is optimal for many types of vegetables. Freezing vegetables at home is a fast and easy way to preserve nutrients and enjoy the taste of summer vegetables all year long.
Note: Freezing is not recommended for artichokes, Belgian endive, eggplant, lettuce greens, potatoes (other than mashed), radishes, sprouts and sweet potatoes.
3. Curing and preserving fruits and vegetables
Not all vegetables can just be put away. Some vegetables need to cure like winter squash, onions and garlic. These vegetables will keep for quite a long time if cured and stored in the right environment. Here are some tips on curing your vegetables.
You also might consider drying. You can do this by hang drying your vegetable, flower or herbs. Or you can dehydrating them. Depending on the plant you will want to research and experiment with how long to dry them. You will want to have good airflow and a dark space. And depending on the plant you may want them to be in a cool or hot environment. We've outlined a few ways to cure your vegetables in the sections below.
There's always canning. We could do a whole article just about preserving foods by canning. There are so many great recipes out there and the sky's the limit on recipes to try. Every year we try something new. Here is a link to one of our favorites for candied jalapeños, which we call cowboy candy around here. If you're looking for other recipes take a look over at Ball. (We would love to hear about your favorites! Send us an email.)
Some vegetable you just have to eat right away. Here are some recipes to liven up your vegetables.
Preserving food has been done for as long as people have been hungry and realized maybe you could make this last. Go old-school by salting, smoking (for meat), or fermenting. Here is an article about using salt while fermenting your vegetables.
How to store vegetables
Each type of vegetable will have its own requirements. You may have tried to put tomatoes in the refrigerator and then when you wanted to eat them, found they were tasteless. Here are some recommendations on how to store your vegetables.
Not all vegetables are able to keep for long periods of time. In these situations, it is good to know how to keep them fresh for as long as you can. Here are some tips on keeping these foods that have a shorter shelf life.
Storing Root vegetables
Root vegetables store very well in many climates if you keep them in the right conditions. Your root vegetables will store the longest if kept at 32-40 degrees F and 95% humidity. You can keep them in sand too. Just don't wash them as that can lead to mildew and rotting.
One of the biggest challenge to keeping vegetables through the winter is finding a cool, dark, dry place that doesn’t freeze.
In milder climates, Depending on your average temperature during this time, having a root cellar, storage box or unheated garage might be just the place to store your harvest. Just make sure that it is in a place that can't be reached by mice or other pests.
Produce that does best in cold, moist storage includes
Apples (6-8 weeks, unwashed)
Asparagus (3-4 days)
Beets (2-3 weeks)
Blackberries (2-3 days)
Blueberries (5-10 days)
Broccoli (3-5 days)
Brussels Spouts (3-5 days)
Cabbage (1 week)
Carrots (3-4 weeks)
Cauliflower (1 week)
Celery (1-2 weeks or a month or more if you wrap it in tin foil)
Citrus fruit: Lemon, lime, orange (3-4 weeks)
Eggplant (5-7 days)
Grapes (up to 3 weeks)
Lettuce (1 week)
Mushrooms (4-7 days)
Parsnips (3-4 weeks)
Peas (3-5 days)
Peppers (1-2 weeks)
Rutabaga (2-3 weeks)
Spinach (3-5 days)
Summer squash (4-5 days)
Note: A word about leafy green storage: Lettuce, spinach, kale, and more
Leafy greens will only store for a short time. They are often susceptible to moisture loss and will wilt quickly. They also stay fresh longer if wrapped and then refrigerated. Wrap them with a towel or paper towel and store them in a sealed airtight bag or container to maintain humidity and freshness.
Best in cold, dry storage
Garlic (2-3 months) Wait until the garlic stalks fall over at the end of the growing season. Pull the bulbs and lay them out in a dry, warm place to cure. Once cured, braid heads of garlic together.
Onions (2-3 months) When stalks are ready to fall over in the late summer or fall your onions are ready to harvest. Cure them in a dry, warm spot (about 75-85 degrees F). Trim stalks and store in a cool, dark, dry (50-60 degrees F). Use any onions that still have green at the center of the stalk as they won't keep for long in storage. For longer onion storage choose stronger flavored onions rather than sweet onion varieties.
Best in warm, dry conditions
Hot peppers (2-3 weeks)
Pumpkins (8-12 weeks)
Winter squash (8-12 weeks)
Sweet potatoes (3-5 weeks)
Best if stored in a cool dry place that isn't your refrigerator
Tomatoes (7-14 days)
Bananas (5-7 days)
Potatoes (2-3 months)
After harvest rub off any dirt. Don't wash them as that can add too much moisture. Lay the potatoes out to cure in a cool dry, dark spot. The temperature should be about 50-60 degrees F. Let them stay here for about 2 weeks. This process allows the skins to toughen and helps them keep longer. For long term storage, place them in a well ventilated, cool, dark, dry area where the temperature won't go below freezing or above about 60 degrees F. Keep the light out so they don't sprout.
Now we've talked about different ways of storing fruits and vegetables. There are going to be times when you just have too much to store, or use now. Then there's always canning but we'll save that for another post.
We hope this post has given you some new ideas on how to store your fruits and vegetables.
This article was written by our farmer and rancher staff at Farmbrite. Like little squirrels we work every year to preserve the season longer and put up as much as we can.