Storage Tips for Fall Vegetables
Once you have the experience of eating nutritious foods in the winter that you’ve stored in your home - you know that there’s nothing like it. There’s such a deep satisfaction to not have to rely on the grocery store for all your winter food.
Best of all - most produce is easy to store, once you know the conditions that each vegetable requires for optimal storage.
There are 4 main types of storage conditions:
Warm and dry — best for sweet potatoes
Cool and dry — best for garlic, onions
Cool and relatively humid (such as a proper root cellar) — best for potatoes and squash
Cold and humid (such as a fridge) — best for root vegetables
This chart below summarizes the storage conditions for the most common vegetables
Once you’ve decided where to keep your produce, there are a few tips for maximizing their storage life.
Be aware of which types of produce store better than others. For example, with squash, butternuts typically have the longest shelf life, and often keep until the following summer. Others, such as the delicata or sweet dumpling, keep best until around Christmas time.
Therefore, plan to consume your delicatas and sweet dumplings first, and reserve most of your butternuts until later in the winter (butternuts actually have more flavour then anyways!)
Check over each item before you put it into storage. Set aside anything that has nicks or minor blemishes, and use those first. Those little blemishes are where a vegetable would tend to develop a bad spot first - so if they’re used first, the rest of the lot should keep much longer.
Be in the habit of checking your produce every week or two. A quick glance, or a quick sniff, and you’ll know if something is “off”.
If you’ve checked your produce well when it went into storage, there’s less chance of having an issue later on. However, if something begins to develop a soft spot, you can catch it right away and use it while it’s still fully usable.
A good example is with onions. If you see the skin start to split (indicating that a sprout is starting to grow inside, and it’s expanding from inside), or if there’s a sprout already poking out through the top - put that onion aside for use in your next meal with onions, and keep the rest of the still-firm onions for later.
Store your produce in appropriate containers. This will go a long ways towards extending the storage life.
Root vegetables, in the fridge (or elsewhere, at fridge temperature): they’ll keep longest in vented plastic bags, or vented plastic containers. Next best: waxed cardboard boxes
Potatoes keep best in burlap bags or waxed cardboard boxes in a cool root cellar with a dirt floor. If you don’t have a root cellar, no problem - keep them in the basement, in the dark, in waxed cardboard boxes or plain cardboard boxes or bags. After a few months, they may start to soften slightly if they’re not in a humid area, but they’re still fully usable.
Sweet potatoes keep best in open cardboard boxes, at a temperature slightly below room temperature
Squashes keep well in open boxes or crates or on shelves. Ideally they would be placed in a single layer, but usually keep fine even if they’re stacked in a box
Cabbages keep best if each head is wrapped in a newspaper, then put into a crisper drawer or in a vented plastic bag. Or, turn them all into sauerkraut right away!
There you have it! Some tips for getting the longest storage time from fall produce. By following these simple tips, it’s very possible to keep food fresh and tasty until the spring.