Save It For Later: Winter Veggie Storage

Don’t forget! The annual Garden City Harvest Fire Sale is quickly approaching – next Wednesday and Thursday, 10/19 & 10/20, from 2:00 to 6:30 PM, at the River Road Farm (1657 River Rd). What is the Fire Sale you ask? Sounds spicy… It’s your chance to stock up on storage quantities of cured onions, squash, garlic, tomatoes, peppers, and much more. It’s set up market style, so you can select your favorite summer tastes to last you the winter through. With pretty amazing prices, I might add.
Which brings us to another point: storing said veggies. As post-modern neo-pioneers, most of us in the community garden world don’t have the nostalgic root cellar to store our goods. Well worry not, one can wax poetic for winter veggie storage in a multitude, and quite innovative, of ways. Apartment and alley-house dwellers, this is your time to shine; let the creativity commence like it once did in the time pre-shipping containers and electric air-conditioning.

Winter squash keep well in a cool bedroom. Image by Keith Ward via Mother Earth News.

Things to consider –

Curing – Most storage crops need to be cured to enhance their storage potential. “During the curing process, potatoes and sweet potatoes heal over small wounds to the skin, garlic and onions form a dry seal over the openings at their necks, and dry beans and grain corn let go of excess moisture that could otherwise cause them to rot.” [1]  Harvesting, curing and storage requirements vary with each crop. Luckily, if you’re buying your veduras de fuego, ie, Fire Sale veggies, then the crops have already been cured and are ready for storage.

First thing’s first – you need a cool (but not freezing) location for storing your bounty over the winter. This has to do with slowing the release rate of xylene gases which accelerates ripening and thus, spoiling; 34F and 50F (1 to 10C) is best.[2]

Uproot leeks, cabbage and Brussels sprouts and place in damp sand. Image by Keith Ward via Mother Earth News.

Ventilation – Although you’re purposely slowing the release rate of xylene gases, your veggies will naturally still emit them. Keep your goods in a ventilated area to allow wafting of the gases – somewhere with natural openings and airflow. Closets which are regularly opened and mudrooms are good examples.

Humidity – Another thing to consider when choosing a place to store your winter goods is relative humidity. “Providing moisture lets crisp root vegetables sense they are still in the ground. Some staple storage crops, such as garlic, onions and shallots, need dry conditions to support prolonged dormancy…”  so be aware as to which vegetables you are grouping together and where you’re putting them.[3]  Barbara Pleasant’s article (below) has a thorough chart on which veggies need what for optimum storage.

A spare dresser in a cool room can provide convenient storage space. Image by Keith Ward via Mother Earth News.

Lastly, be creative (like this trash can root cellar idea)! Don’t think that because you live in a small space, don’t have a garage, basement, or extra freezer, you can’t store fruits and vegetables through the winter. Read garden writer Barbara Pleasant’s article (with such lovely illustrations) for brilliant vegetable storage ideas.


[1] Pleasant, Barbara. “Food Storage: 20 Crops That Keep and How to Store Them.” Mother Earth News. Last modified September 2012. Accessed October 10, 2016. http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/garden-planning/food-storage-zm0z12aszcom.

[2] Bourque, Danny. “Root Cellars and Me (Tips for Cold Storage).” Simple Bites. Last modified October 12, 2012. Accessed October 10, 2016. http://www.simplebites.net/root-cellars-and-me-tips-for-cold-storage/.

[3] Pleasant, Barbara.