I want to keep track of what we’ve stored, how long it’s lasted, and how our storage conditions have fluctuated over time, so this is the start of a (hopefully) monthly(ish) report. It’s pretty late in the (storage) year to start this little project, but I think it is worth doing anyhow.
We specifically plant a lot of our garden with an eye to long-term storage vegetables. Our house has a lovely, dirt-floored root cellar built right in to the north-west corner of the basement, and that is the backbone of our vegetable storage. However, a few of our veggies prefer dry conditions; we store those in a spare bedroom with the furnace vent closed off, so it is quite cool (maybe 10-15 degrees Celsius), but not at all damp. While we also store a lot of produce by canning and freezing, it’s nice to be able to simply put a part of our harvest away, without having to process it in any way.
As of March 1, 2019, here is what’s still going strong:
Sugar Pie Pumpkins – these are a surprise to me, as the pumpkins usually get soft by late December for us. We stored them in the spare room, same as always; the only thing we did differently this year was dipping the stem ends in a bleach solution before bringing them in the house to harden off. We had one for supper a few days ago, and it was still perfect.
Red Kuri Squash – the Red Kuris usually last until sometime in March or April, so it’s not surprising that they are still doing fine.
Sweet Meat Squash – this is another variety that has a good shelf life for us.
Various cross-breed c. maxima squash – we’ve been doing a little breeding project in our garden, trying to come up with an improved c. maxima that will tolerate our short, often droughty seasons, taste good, and store well. We have a handful of squashes left that seem to be going strong; we will save seeds from these ones, for replanting in the spring.
Spaghetti Squash – spaghetti squash is always a particularly good keeper for us, and they don’t even seem to care whether they are stored in warm or cool conditions. If we run out of space in the spare room (we usually do), the spaghetti squash goes into the pantry, or even on shelves in the kitchen! This year, we’ve got spaghetti squashes all over the house, and they are all still perfect.
Onions – our onions typically last until the chives come up in the spring. This year, we didn’t plant enough of them, and have had to supplement with store-bought; however, the few teeny onions we’ve got left are keeping just fine. We usually keep our onions in baskets in the spare room, though this year, they got moved to the basement around Christmas, because they were in the way.
Potatoes – potatoes are another long-storage champ for us. We have tried numerous varieties, and they all seem to keep very well. Our current potato stash is still going strong, and they normally hold out until sometime in late April or early May, when they tend to sprout and get bitter. They don’t rot, though, and are generally in fine condition for replanting by the time we’re ready to do so. We store the potatoes in burlap sacks in the root cellar.
Carrots – this year, we tried storing our carrots in perforated plastic vegetable bags in the root cellar, and they stored for considerably longer than they have in the past, when we put them in covered plastic bins. We also tried storing carrots in bins of sand, but that didn’t work out well at all – I suspect the sand was too dry, as the carrots shriveled up in just a couple of months. The carrots are starting to go a bit limp, now, and sprouting green tops, but they still taste fine.
Honeycrisp Apples – most of the Honeycrisps were stored in regular zip-top plastic bags and perforated vegetable bags in the root cellar. We didn’t do a good job of sorting through them over the winter to use up the ones that were going bad, so it’s hard to tell which type of bag was better for storage. However, the bags have held the apples much longer than last year, when we stored the apples in uncovered five-gallon buckets in the root cellar. We also tried storing some in a bag in the fridge, though the bag was not zipped tight. Most of the apples from all three storage methods are shriveled to some extent, though a handful are still quite firm.
All of the apples I cut open had some extent of browning on the inside, but the majority are still edible. All were sweeter in flavor than they were in the fall, but the ones in the fridge had a stronger flavor and a somewhat better texture. While mealy and not exactly ideal for eating raw, the apples are still mostly edible, and could be used in a pie or crisp or porridge.
All in all, I’m pretty happy with the veggie storage this year, as we managed to extend our storage season on several things. The pumpkins, carrots, and apples, in particular, are big wins.