Storing the harvest
My porch is covered with assorted winter squash and dried beans, and my kitchen table has tomatoes and peppers in various stages of ripeness, and the number one question I am getting from vegetable gardeners is, "How do I store my home grown produce properly?"
What follows is a list of do's and don'ts for proper vegetable storage. Store only fresh, sound produce that is free from cracks, cuts, bruises or insect damage. Blemished produce is prone to invasion by decay-causing organisms, resulting in limited storage capacities.
Choose one of three long term storage options.
1. Cool and dry (50-60 degrees F and 60 percent humidity). Basements are generally cool and dry.
2. Cold and dry (32-40 degrees F and 65 percent humidity). Home refrigerators are cold and dry with 50 to 60 percent humidity.
3. Cold and moist (32-40 degrees F and 95 percent humidity). Root cellars provide cold and moist conditions.
If possible, store fruits and vegetables separately to maintain quality. Apples give off large amounts of ethylene gas, which encourages rapid aging of many vegetables, fruits and flowers. Apples can also absorb odors, resulting in muddy flavors. Store apples in perforated plastic bags or boxes lined with plastic (to maintain high humidity) between 30 and 32 degrees F. Storage life decreases with slight increases in temperatures.
Potatoes can be stored close to 40 degrees F. Warmer temperatures will promote sprouting and cooler temperatures will result in a sweeter flavor. Keep potatoes in total darkness as exposure to light causes them to turn green, which produces a bitter taste. Remove any green parts before cooking.
Root vegetables like carrots, turnips and rutabagas should be stored in a cool moist location between 32-40 degrees in plastic perforated bags. Bags without air holes create conditions that are too humid.
Winter squash and pumpkins require dry conditions and temperatures between 50-55 degrees. They should be stored on shelves or boards (kept off of concrete or soil floors), and should not be touching each other.
No matter how you are keeping vegetables, it is important to regularly inspect produce and remove any that are beginning to spoil as this can spread rapidly to nearby stored produce.
For more information on proper harvest and storage of vegetables, visit: http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/horticulture/DG1424.html.
Until next time, happy gardening!
"Eating is an agricultural act."
- Wendell Berry