Though astrological fall doesn’t happen for another few days, metrological autumn is upon us here in the Ozarks and the harvest is coming in. Though we can get vegetables throughout the year, during the autumn, prices are the lowest that they are ever throughout the year. Autumn will get you better prices on vegetables of any form whether fresh, frozen, canned, or dehydrated. This has been true throughout history, and even though we have been able to get various types of food in recent years from all over the world thanks to transportation innovation, it’s still true today. Recently, the world has been in flux based on climate change, a worldwide pandemic, and war and this has affected not only our worldwide food supply but also how we are able to transport and prepare it. It is even more imperative than ever to have an adequate food supply on hand.
There is an expected worldwide food shortage and the more food we can get from local sources, the better. However, there is only so long that much of what we get locally can be used fresh. Tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, and the like can only last so long before they spoil. We can prepare many of these fresh foods for the freezer, can or dehydrate them for future use because they won’t keep as fresh vegetables. However, there are some vegetables that don’t need to be stored in any of these ways. They can be stored for several months beyond the time they are picked.
For any of these vegetables that you want to keep for several months, be sure to only store perfect specimens. Bug damage or cuts in the vegetables decrease their longevity.
Whether you get your onions from your garden, the grocery store, or buy them from a local grower, you can store onion bulbs for several months.
Although you can’t store green onions for longer than a few days, you can store onion bulbs for up to several months.
Before storing your onions, let the skins of the onions dry and their necks begin to shrivel. Spread the onions in a single layer. Keep the temperature around 40 degrees to 50 degrees Fahrenheit (4–10 degrees Celsius) to keep the onions longer. Store onions individually and don’t store them with the other fruits and vegetables since they can reduce the smell and taste of the onions. You can use a pantyhose to store the onions. Simply cut off the legs of the clean pantyhose, place an onion in the foot of the pantyhose, then tie a knot for each onion. Keep adding the onions until the foot is full. and hang the braided bags in a dry cool place with the recommended temperature.
Uncut onions will last several months this way. Use cut onions within two to three days.
The storage temperature for the garlic is most important. The ideal temperature for storing garlic is 60–65 degrees Fahrenheit (15–18 degrees Celsius). Although keeping at this temperature is not easy, the closer you can keep your garlic at these temperatures, the longer the garlic will keep. Keep your garlic away from your stove or heat source.
Don’t store them in the refrigerator because it is too cold. and its moisture causes the garlic to rot sooner. Nor should you store it in plastic because it prevents air circulation, increases moisture, and speeds up disintegration. Better to store garlic in a cupboard in a paper bag (or no bag at all) than in it is to store them in the refrigerator or a drawer.
Potatoes thrive in humid conditions. This durable crop is comprised of 80 percent water. The best places to store them long-term should be dark, well-ventilated, and cool areas — but not cold and where they won’t freeze. Keeping temperatures below 55 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit (12 to 19 Celsius) will prevent the growth of sprouts on potatoes longer and reduce both shrinkage and a loss of nutrients. Ideally, keeping potatoes between 43 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit (6–12 Celsius) will allow them to keep for multiple months without rotting or sprouting eyes especially if they are varieties that are meant to keep longer (indeterminant late potatoes).
Newly harvested sweet potatoes with the roots still attached are the best option to use. Plump vegetables have more usable flesh to eat than skinny ones. It is even more important to be sure that sweet potatoes are not bruised. Shake off the dirt, but don’t wash.
Sweet potatoes should be cured for one to two weeks. This curing process forms a second skin over scratches and bruises. Place in a location where you can keep temperatures between 75–80 degrees Fahrenheit (24–27 degrees Celsius) with a relative humidity of 90 to 95 percent. Use a small electric fan in the area to keep the air circulating to prevent rotting and molding. Do not allow sweet potatoes to touch one another. Cure in this manner for between 7–14 days for longer storage.
Once the sweet potatoes are cured, wrap each one in newspaper. This will allow just enough air circulation to prevent the sweet potatoes from rotting too quickly. Store these individually-wrapped sweet potatoes in a cardboard or wooden box, or wooden basket. Do not use an airtight storage container. Place an apple in the box to prevent the sweet potatoes from sprouting. Store the box in a cool dark place, maintaining a consistent temperature of 55–60 degrees Fahrenheit (13–16 degrees Celsius), a basement or root cellar is ideal. Do not refrigerate. Stored this way, sweet potatoes last up to six months.
Don’t wash the carrots before storing them. Simply remove the green tops. Store in a temperature around 41 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius). Store in a wooden box with slightly dampened sand. Spread sand out on the bottom of the box and the first layer and then put carrots inside without the carrots touching.
Continue adding alternate layers of sand and carrots until you have stored the whole harvest. The carrots will keep fresh for several months.
Beets are easy to store in the refrigerator. Properly stored beets can last for weeks or even months. Remove beet greens, don’t wash them, and store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Simple.
Store undamaged roots. Gently rub soil from the roots before storing them. Store the turnips in a cold moist location at or near freezing (32–40 degrees Fahrenheit or 0–4 degrees Celsius) and at 95 percent humidity. Store them in a wrapped moist cloth or paper towel in a perforated plastic bag in the vegetable drawer in the refrigerator. Turnip roots can also be packed in a bucket or plastic storage container or cooler in moist sand, peat moss or sawdust.
Corn dried on the stalk and further air dried so that it can be stored indefinitely when removed from the cob and stored in sealed mylar bags. The corn can be used to make corn flour or meal or made into hominy and ground into grits.
Beans seeds can be dried on the vine, further air dried, and shelled. Heat beans in the oven at 200 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius) and place them in a container or seal them in a mylar bag for extended preservation.
Treat peas in the same way that you prepared the dried beans.
Squash and Pumpkins
To store winter squash, you’ll need ripe fruits. To determine ripeness, push a fingernail into the rind. If it is hard and nearly impossible to pierce, it’s ready. Cut the squash off with pruners and leave a 3-inch (8 cm.) stem for pumpkins and 1 inch (2.5 cm.) for winter squash. The stem helps prevent rot when you are keeping winter squash in storage.
After you harvest the squash, rinse off the dirt and lay the squash into a single layer to prevent damage to the rind. Next, you’ll want to cure the rinds against moisture, insects, mold, and bacteria. Cure the squash for ten days at temperatures of at least 80 degrees F. (27 C.) and 80 percent humidity. Acorn squash doesn’t need to be hardened off, as they lose their quality. Turn the squash occasionally to expose all sides to air.
Store the squash by lowering the temperature. Every 18-degree reduction in temperature increases the time for storing winter squash. Keeping winter squash in a temperature of 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit (10–13 Celsius) is the optimum range for most squash. Good ventilation is a necessity for keeping squash.
You Will Save Money
Storing these fresh vegetables whether purchased from the grocery store, a local source or grown in your own garden will save you a lot of money in your grocery bills without having to do anything more than store them until you can eat them.
For More Information
You can grow as many of these vegetables in your own garden as you have room to plant, and you can start now to get a head start on the upcoming gardening season by planting garlic and purchasing my book about this topic. The book is The Survival Garden and it is available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle. Check it out today.