Seasonal Vegetables Perfect for Storage As Is
The holidays, especially Thanksgiving, signal an end to the fall harvest season, and many of us would like to grow and preserve more of our seasonal vegetables for later use throughout the winter and early spring. Canning and freezing are useful processes for long-term preservation, but there are quite a number of vegetables that can be cleaned with water, wiped with vinegar to prevent mold growth and stored as is for use, same as fresh, until the next season. Most of them can be grown right in the home garden with proper planning and care.
Some of the most obvious candidates for winter storage this time of year are the numerous varieties of pumpkins and winter squash, such as acorn, butternut, pattypan, etc. Most of these heavy vining crops can be grown in most gardens if there is enough space, as they require plenty of room for a long period of time. Some gardeners plant these “travelers” on their outside rows and let them meander across the adjacent lawn or meadow, and others choose to companion crop them underneath their blocks of rows of sweet corn.
Another long-season vining crop that is excellent for winter storage is the long-time Southern favorite sweet potato, now so popular as a “nutritional superfood” that even Northern gardeners are finding ways to start plants early with protection in order to have sufficient growing time. Actually sweet potatoes are all started from young plantlet sprouts or “slips” pulled away from the “seed” potato beds in late spring and transplanted to the field or garden. We will begin offering sweet potato plants at Seeds N Such this coming season, so look for our listings as soon as they become available.
Sweet potatoes are harvested in the fall at least a few days before first frost, as frost kills the tender vines and fungal growth will travel through the dead vines into the potatoes almost overnight, causing them to rot straightaway. Once harvested the potatoes may be gently brushed or washed and fully dried before “curing” for storage. To cure sweet potatoes they should be placed in well-ventilated baskets and located in a quite warm 80-plus-degree, high humidity environment for two weeks. A greenhouse or “Florida room” is perfect; and after curing, sweet potatoes should be stored in a dark closet to prevent sprouting, but also with cold protection from temperatures below 45 degrees F.
Other root crops also adapt well to winter storage, such as beets, carrots, radishes, onions, garlic and potatoes. Some gardeners have done their research to bring back the old-fashioned “root cellar” technique into these modern times. Most of these root type vegetables will store fine for winter use as long as they are not exposed to temperatures near freezing or below and are kept dry in a well-ventilated area.