Juicing and Smoothies For Dummies
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You have only two choices when you harvest crops from your vegetable garden: Eat the veggies right away, or store them to use later. Specific vegetables need different storage conditions to maintain their freshness, such as:
  • Cool and dry: Ideally, temperatures should be between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 15.5 degrees Celsius), with 60-percent relative humidity—conditions you usually find in a well-ventilated basement.
  • Cold and dry: Temperatures should be between 32 and 40°F (0 to 4.5°C), with 65-percent humidity. You can achieve these conditions in most home refrigerators or in a cold basement or garage.
  • Cool and moist: Temperatures should be between 50 and 60°F (10 to 15.5°C) with 90-percent humidity. You can store vegetables in a cool kitchen or basement in perforated plastic bags.
  • Cold and moist: Your storage area should be 32 to 40°F (0 to 4.5°C), with 95-percent humidity. You can create these conditions by placing your veggies in perforated bags (vegetables in bags without ventilation are likely to degrade faster) and storing the bags in a fridge.
Vegetables stored in a cellar. © Ivan Protsiuk / Shutterstock.com

Vegetables stored in a cellar.

You also can create cold and moist conditions in a root cellar. An unheated basement works well as a root cellar. However, these days, most homes have heaters or furnaces in the basement, which make the conditions too warm for storing vegetables. But if you don’t have a heater, or if you can section off a portion of your basement and keep temperatures just above freezing, you can store vegetables like root crops and even cabbage for long periods of time.

Make sure your vegetables are well ventilated in the root cellar; you can store onions, potatoes, and other root crops in mesh bags. Shoot for a humidity level that’s as high as you can get. To increase humidity, spread moist wood shavings or sawdust on the floor but keep the vegetables elevated on wooden boxes.

In the following table, I provide specifics on how to store your vegetables so that after you pick them, you quickly know what to do with them (that is, if you don’t eat them right away). The table also includes information on whether you can freeze, dry, or can vegetables, topics that I cover later in this chapter.
Storing Fresh Vegetables
Vegetable How to Store Expected Storage Life Comments
Asparagus Cold and moist Two weeks Store upright. Freeze, dry, or can.
Beans, snap Cool and moist One week Pods will scar below 40°F (4.5°C). Freeze after blanching. Can.
Beets Cold and moist Five months Store without tops. Freeze, dry, or can.
Broccoli Cold and moist Two weeks Freeze or dry.
Brussels sprouts Cold and moist One month Freeze or dry.
Cabbage Cold and moist Five months Freeze or dry.
Carrots Cold and moist Three weeks Store without tops. Freeze, dry, or can.
Cauliflower Cold and moist Three weeks Freeze or dry.
Corn Cold and moist Five days Freeze, dry, or can.
Cucumbers Cool and moist One to two weeks Will scar if stored below 40°F (4.5°C). Can be stored in a cool kitchen in a perforated bag. Don’t store with apples or tomatoes. Can.
Eggplant Cool and moist One week Prolonged storage below 50°F (10°C) causes scarring. Freeze or dry.
Kohlrabi Cold and moist Two months Store without tops. Freeze.
Lettuce and other greens Cold and moist One week Freeze greens such as spinach and Swiss chard.
Muskmelons Cold and moist One week Freeze.
Onions Cold and dry Four months Cure (let dry) at room temperatures for 2 to 4 weeks before storing. Keep green onions cool and moist for 1 to 4 months. Freeze, dry, or can.
Parsnips Cold and moist Three weeks Will sweeten after 2 weeks at 32°F (0°C). Freeze.
Peanuts Cool and dry Four months Pull pods after plant has dried for several weeks. Store dried in bags.
Peas Cold and moist One week Freeze, dry, or can.
Peppers Cool and moist Two weeks Will scar if stored below 45°F (7°C). Freeze, dry, or can.
Potatoes Cold and moist Six months Keep out of light. Cure at 50 to 60°F (10 to 15.5°C) for 14 days before storage. Freeze, dry, or can.
Pumpkins Cool and dry Two to five months Very sensitive to temperatures below 45°F (7°C). Freeze, dry, or can.
Radishes Cold and moist One month Store without tops. Freeze or dry.
Rutabagas Cold and moist Four months Freeze.
Spinach Cold and moist Ten days Freeze.
Squash, summer Cool and moist One week Don’t store in refrigerator for more than 4 days. Freeze, dry, or can.
Squash, winter Cool and dry Two to six months Freeze, dry, or can.
Sweet potatoes Cool and moist Four months Cure in the sun. Freeze, dry, or can.
Tomatoes Cool and moist Five days Loses flavor if stored below 55°F (13°C). Don’t refrigerate. Freeze, dry, or can.
Turnips Cold and moist Two to four months Freeze.
Watermelons Cool and moist Two weeks Will decay if stored below 50°F (10°C). Can the juice or rind.

If you want to store vegetables, make sure you harvest them at their peak ripeness. Also avoid bruising the produce, because bruises hasten rotting. The storage times in the table are only estimates; they can vary widely depending on conditions. Store only the highest quality vegetables for long periods of time; vegetables that are damaged or scarred are likely to rot and spoil everything nearby.

If you live in an area where the ground freezes in the winter, you can actually leave some root crops—including carrots, leeks, rutabagas, and turnips — in the ground and harvest all winter long. After a good, hard frost, but before the ground freezes, cover your vegetable bed with a foot or more of dry hay. Cover the hay with heavy plastic (4 to 6 millimeters) and secure the edges with rocks, bricks, or heavy boards. The plastic keeps rain and snow from trickling down through the hay and rotting your vegetables, and it also keeps the soil from freezing solid. You can harvest periodically through winter, but be careful to re-cover the opening after each harvest.

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