As a gardeners, one of the goals of growing your own food is to achieve good nutrition to put on the dinner table. Most crops are preserved by some sort of food preservation method like canning. However, if you have a root vegetable storage plan, you can cut out a lot of extra work for yourself!
Root Vegetable Storage Made Easy
The benefits for storing root vegetables is obvious–it is a way to preserve what we have worked so hard to grow in our gardens. If you don’t grow your own root veggies, you can still use these methods while you partake in your grocery store’s best sales on your family’s favorites.
All you need to know are the correct temperatures and conditions to store each type of vegetable. Mind you, though–store bought vegetables probably won’t store as long as your own home-grown root veggies.
Which Root Vegetables Can Be Stored?
Carrots, garlic, onions, potatoes, and sweet potatoes are our family favorites, but your family may want to store something different. Beets, carrots, potatoes, cabbage, sweet potatoes, turnips, onions, garlic, parsnips, and all manner of winter squash in peak condition can store nicely over the winter without a refrigerator if you understand the conditions they need to remain fresh.
Guidelines for Root Vegetable Storage
Here are some guidelines to follow when preparing your vegetables to store:
- Handle them carefully so as not to bruise them. Bruised vegetables will rot faster, and will cause the other vegetables around them to rot as well, if they are touching.
- Choose an area free of strong-smelling substances and hazardous chemicals. This can be an issue if you are planning to store food in a garage or garden shed.
- Plan to check your produce regularly in order to remove spoiling pieces from the bag, basket, or box it is stored in.
- Choose a location that is cool, but frost free. Vegetables that have been frozen and thawed in storage will spoil.
Most root vegetables can be stored for a long period of time under optimal conditions, which makes it worth the time to find out what environment your family favorites will need to be stored. Here is a list with some basic information that will help you understand the needs of each root vegetable and make putting together a storage plan much easier for you.
Beets, Carrots, Turnips, and Parsnips
These can be stored in sand that is only just moist, not too wet, in a frost free place. Layer the sand and the roots (unwashed, but brushed off) in containers such as barrels, crates, and deep seed trays. Make sure the roots do not touch each other. These vegetables prefer temperatures between 32-40 degrees F, with 90-95% humidity.
Carrots and also be stored in a crisper drawer, which works quite well for about a month for store-bought carrots. In her book, The Weekend Homesteader, Anna Hess recommends covering the roots with a damp towel to keep them from drying out.
Potatoes can be stored for long periods of time in a cool, dark place where there is low humidity to deter fungal growth. They can be housed in a cardboard box, cotton sacks or in paper.
Choose a location that will see the least amount of fluctuation in temperature. This is because tubers may sprout roots and shoots in the event of warmer temperatures, and freeze solid in the event of very cold temperatures, thereby spoiling your potato storage.
Onions, Garlic, and Winter Squash
These three can be stored by hanging in a netting bag in a dry, cool, airy place that doesn’t freeze or get damp. If you don’t have any netting, you can string yours and store them hanging up, but you will want to make sure they have dried adequately before doing so.
Onions and garlic can be stored in baskets that hang from the kitchen ceiling. Freshly harvested garlic lasts quite a while this way, but not forever. Check it often to make sure it’s not getting soft.
You will want to store your winter cabbages in a place that is between 32-40 degrees with 80-90% humidity, or left in the ground and harvested through the winter. Remove outer leaves and store in straw or shredded paper in crates, or some other breathable box.
Cabbage will also store nicely in the refrigerator, lasting quite long in there. However, if you have more than one or two heads, you will need to find another solution that affords more storage space.
Sweet potatoes prefer storage in a warm dry place between temperatures of 50-60% degrees F with 60-70% humidity.
Storing in a cupboard will work just fine for small amount, or if you are working with store-bought amounts.