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Storing Vegetables for Winter

Posted November 02, 2021

By using traditional storage techniques, you can look forward to home-grown vegetables throughout winter, such as parsnips, potatoes and winter squash.  Some root crops can be left in the soil in mild areas, but most other vegetables should be harvested and stored. The important point is to keep them fresh, and to protect them from freezing, weather damage and hungry insects and animals.  

If you have space available in a cool, frost-free place, such as a shed, cellar, or garage, then try storing smaller root vegetables like, carrots, beets, turnips and parsnips in boxes filled with light soil or sand. The method is simple and it keeps roots firm and fresh right through the winter months.  

Whichever roots you store, lift them carefully, if possible when the soil is reasonably dry. If the roots are wet, lay them out on newspaper to dry fully and then brush off loose soil. Check each one and store only crops that are disease-free and not damaged.  

  • Remove all foliage before storing. Cut off leaves 1/2 inch above the roots.
  • Find cardboard or wooden box that is wide and fairly shallow. Line it with newspaper if there are any gaps. Cover the base with a layer of light sand or clean soil about 1 inch thick.
  • Place the first layer of roots with care to make maximum use of the space without on root touching another. If they touch each other, this could allow rot to spread through the box.  
  • Layer them up. Once the first layer is complete, cover it with at least 1 in of sand or soil. Repeat the whole process until the box if full. Store in a dry, frost-free place.

Store late season potatoes somewhere dry and frost-free in paper bags, folded over to exclude light.

Bulbs such as garlic, shallots, and onions can be braided and hung in a cool dry frost-free place. 

Once winter squash and pumpkins is cured, store on straw or shredded paper in a cool dry frost-free place.

Tips for successful storage:

  • Check your winter stores often to make sure there is no spoilage.   
  • The larger the root, the longer it will keep, so when storing in sand-filled boxes, pack the biggest specimens in the bottom layers and the smallest ones at the top.
  • Not all root crops keep well when lifted. Jerusalem artichokes and salsify lose their flavor and dry out once harvested. These are better in the refrigerator in a crisper drawer or container. 
  • Leave root crops in the the garden if you have a mild climate such as our zone 8. We leave carrots, celeriac, and parsnips in the garden through the winter. These sweeten with a frost. A cover of straw will increase the protection in cold climates.

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