Vegetable Storage

~ Vegetable Storage ~ ~ Vegetarian ~ Wisconsin Recipes ~ Kathy Martin's blog "Skippy's Vegetable Garden" ~ ~ Root Cellars ~

Inspired by Kathy Martin's blog Skippy's Vegetable Garden I post information on how to correctly store vegetables. In my research, I decided that a root cellar is not practical for a suburbanite. Good ideas which I am going to try are: using cold spaces in attic or enclosed porch and using the cellar. So, winter of 2008 will be the big experiment.

Where to Store Vegetables

Storage Degrees Humidity Vegetables
Refrigerator 40° 30-40% Carrots, celeriac, beets, apples, pears, kale, bok choi, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, turnip, rutabaga
Unheated entrance, attic or spare room 40-50° 10-30% Winter squashes (butternut, delicata, acorn squash) onions, garlic
Cellar, cool damp corner 33-50° 30-50% Potatoes, sweet potatoes

General Guidelines Preparing Vegetables for Storage.

  1. Never wash a vegetable for storage. Washing shortens storage life, sometimes by months.
  2. When storing in a plastic bag in the refrigerator make sure that you remove as much air from the bag as possible before storing.

Refrigerator

Vegetable Storage in Refrigerator
Beets Cut the tops off. If the tops are in good shape wash them and cook them. Yum. Don’t wash the beets. Store them in a plastic bag in the back of the refrigerator. The tops where you cut off the greens might be a little rotty. Not to worry. When you peel them the insides will be great. Inside that plastic bag beets in the back of the fridge will keep for months.
Brussels Sprouts Cut the little sprouts off the stem and store them in a plastic bag in the back of the fridge like the carrots. They will keep for at least a couple of months. They will usually keep for up to six weeks.
Carrots, Celeriac, Turnip Store in a plastic bag in the back of the refrigerator. Carrots will keep for months this way. After being stored a long time there may be a white root substance on the carrot. Not to worry. Just peal it off. As long as the carrots are bright orange underneath they will taste wonderful. Organic carrots actually gain sweetness when stored.
Cabbage Store cabbage in a plastic bag. When you take it out some of the outside leaves may look mildewed but not to worry. Simply strip off the outside leaves and the inside is as good as new. Cabbage will keep this way in the back of the fridge often for three months.
Celeriac Tops will probably be off. Store like carrots. If any part is a bit rotty when you take it out merely cut it off. Chances are the rest is just fine.
Collard Greens, Kale These are not long keepers. Best to eat them within two or three weeks of the delivery. Immerse in cold water, wrap in a cloth dish towel, and place in your fridge.
Turnips, Rutabaga Store like carrots

Unheated Entrance, Attic Space or Unheated Spare Room

  1. Make sure that this area doesn't freeze. For example, a bulkhead might freeze.
  2. Store items one level deep on trays, preferably open at the bottom for air circulation. I often use the black trays that you get at garden centers when you buy plants. Great recycled item.
  3. Make sure squash don't touch each other
  4. Make sure that some ventilation is feasible. For example store trays on a rack with some circulation
  5. Keep area dark. This is particularly important for garlic and onions that will begin to sprout if exposed to light
  6. Inspect all items when taking something from storage. If there are signs of spoilage, noted below, use the item as soon as possible
  7. Always store the best specimens the longest. Use broken stem squash first.

Storing Squash

Recommended optimum storage conditions for pumpkins and winter squashes

Type Squash

Humidity

Temperature

Time

Remarks

Pumpkins

50 to 75%

50 to 55oF

2 to 3 months

Fruit should be mature. Don't store with apples.

Hubbards

70 to 75%

50 to 55oF

5 to 6 months

Stores well.

Acorn

50 to 75%

50oF

5 to 8 weeks

At temperatures >55oF, surface becomes yellow and flesh becomes stringy.

Butternut or Buttercups

50 to 75%

50oF

2 to 3 months

Degree of maturity not as important as for other types.

When winter squash are removed from storage, they should be marketed or consumed immediately, as rot can develop quickly. Black rot, dry rot, and bacterial soft rot are the principal causes of spoilage in stored winter squash.

North Carolina University Storing Winter Squash and Pumpkins http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/hil/hil-24-c.html

Storing Onions

The length of time that onions will store is highly dependent on the variety – the onions in the multi-farm winter share are storage onions and should last several months, especially if stored in a dark, cool area. When onions start to sprout they gradually become unusable. If you see an onion sprouting use it as soon as possible. If onions become soft they are rotten and should be removed from storage.

Cellar in a cool damp corner

  1. The rules of thumb for the cellar storage are:
  2. Store items one level deep on trays as above.
  3. Some ventilation is helpful.
  4. Keep the area dark. This is particularly important for potatoes that will begin to sprout if exposed to light
  5. Inspect all items when taking something from storage. If there are signs of spoilage, noted below, use the item as soon as possible
  6. Always store the best specimens the longest.

Storing Potatoes

Source: excerpted and adapted from Skippy's Vegetable Garden http://carletongarden.blogspot.com/
Comment posted 1/8/08 by Gretta Anderson
Storage Tips for Winter Vegetables adapted from How to Store Vegetables in a Typical Suburban Home by Richard Harrison
http://belmontcsa.blogspot.com/2008/01/storage-tips-for-winter-vegetables.html

Vegetable Storage Chart

Vegetables
How to Store

Refrigerator
On shelves 35-40F (2-4C)

Room Temperature 70F (21C)

Freezer
0F (-18C) stored in MVP*materials

Asparagus Do not wash before storing. Keep in crisper, plastic bags, or plastic containers. 1-2 days   8 months
Beans Dried Keep in crisper or moisture proof wrap. 1-2 days 12 months 8 months
Green or Waxed   3-5 days   8 months
Lima (unshelled)       8 months
Beets Remove leafy tops. Keep in crisper. 1-2 weeks    
Broccoli, Brussels sprouts and summer squash Store in crisper in plastic bags or plastic containers 3-5 days    
Cabbage   1-2 weeks   Does NOT freeze.
Carrots Remove tops. Store in plastic bags or plastic containers. 1-2 weeks   8 months
Celery Keep in crisper or moisture proof wrap. 1-2 weeks   Do not store here.
Corn   1-2 days in husk   8 months
Lettuce Head (unwashed) Store away from other vegetables. 5-7 days    
Head (washed and drained)   3-5 days    
Bib   1-2 days    
Mushrooms Do not wash before storing. 1-2 days    
Onions Keep dry and away from sun   2 weeks  
Peas Dried Store in cool dry place in airtight container. 3-5 days 12 months 8 months
Unshelled        
Potatoes fresh, white Keep dry and away from sun. For longer storage keep about 50F. Don't refrigerate potatoes. Keep in airtight package. Do NOT refrigerate. 2 weeks  
Sweet Potatoes     2-3 weeks  
Radishes and Parsnips Remove tops. Store in refrigerator in plastic bags or in plastic containers. 1-2 weeks    
Spinach, kale, collard, chard, beet turnip and mustard greens Wash thoroughly in cold water. Lift out of water as grit settles to the bottom of pan. Drain well. Store in plastic bags. 3-5 days   8 months
Tomatoes Flavor of tomatoes best at room temperature. Keep unripe tomatoes at room temperature away from direct sunlight until they ripen. Do NOT refrigerate. 1-2 days Do NOT freeze.
Cauliflower, eggplants, snap beans Store in refrigerator in crisper on plastic bags or plastic containers. 1 week    
Rhubarb Refrigerate stalks. Throw away the leaves, they are POISONOUS. 3-5 days    
Peppers and cucumbers Wash and dry, store in crisper or in plastic bags. 1 week    

Source: Arizona Department of Health http://www.azdhs.gov/phs/oeh/fses/sfstt_dt10.htm

Refrigerator Storage Chart for Fresh Vegetables

Fresh Vegetable Fridge Time   Freezer Time     Storage Tips  
Asparagus 2 - 3 days 8 - 12 months Don't wash before refrigerating. Store in crisper.
Brussels Sprouts & Broccoli 3-5 days 8 - 12 months Wrap odorous foods & refrigerate in crisper.
Celery 1-2 weeks Not Recommended Refrigerate in crisper.
Cauliflower & Snap Beans 1 week 8 - 12 months Wrap odorous foods & refrigerate in crisper.
Carrots, Parsnips, Beets, Radishes & Turnips   2 weeks 8 - 12 months Remove tops. Wrap odorous foods & refrigerate in crisper.
Green Peas/Lima Beans 3-5 days 8 - 12 months Leave in pods & refrigerate.
Lettuce/Other Salad Greens 1 week Not Recommended Wash. Drain well. Wrap & refrigerate in crisper.
Mushrooms 3-5 days Not Recommended Store in paper bag in crisper.
Onions, Green 3-5 days 8 - 12 months Wrap odorous foods & refrigerate in crisper.
Peppers & Cucumbers 1 week 8 - 12 months Wrap odorous foods & refrigerate in crisper.

Guidelines

  1. Fresh vegetables remain fresh longest in a moist environment. They should be stored in the crispers with the control on the "Vegetables" setting. If the crispers are full, store vegetables in plastic bags or plastic containers to prevent moisture loss.
  2. Most vegetables should be stored in the refrigerator to preserve freshness. Exceptions include potatoes, sweet potatoes, mature onions, hard-rind squashes, eggplant and rutabagas, which keep well in cool rather than cold storage. Tomatoes should be refrigerated only after they are fully ripe and only for a short time.
  3. Store Vegetables In Crisper Drawers The crisper drawers trap moisture inside to help keep foods fresh. Moisture controls on some crisper drawers can be used to regulate the moisture level in the crisper. As a general rule, vegetables require high moisture storage and fruits low moisture, Refer to the User's Guide for directions on setting the crisper control. The crispers in a refrigerator will perform better if they are at least two-thirds full.
  4. Wrap Certain Vegetables Storage in the crispers slows the dehydration of fresh vegetables. In addition, leafy vegetables, such as lettuce and spinach, should be placed in plastic bags or airtight containers (Tupperware, Rubbermaid*, etc.) to reduce moisture loss. Odorous foods such as peppers and cabbage should always be wrapped to contain odors. Mushrooms should be stored in paper bags rather than plastic.
  5. Remove Excess Moisture Vegetables need a certain amount of moisture to remain fresh as long as possible. However, too much moisture can shorten the storage of vegetables, especially lettuce. Brown spots may develop with excess moisture. It is important that lettuce be well drained before storing. It may be helpful to place a layer of paper towels in the bottom of the bag to absorb any excess moisture; replace the toweling occasionally. Some storage containers feature a special drainage device to raise the lettuce off the bottom and keep it from sitting in accumulated moisture.
  6. Maintain Proper Refrigerator Temperatures The fresh food compartment of a refrigerator should be kept between 34 and 40 degrees F., with an optimum temperature of 37 degrees F. Refrigerator temperatures can be checked by using an appliance thermometer. Lower than recommended refrigerator temperatures could cause vegetables to freeze. Freezing damages cell structure and vegetables can turn brown and become limp.
  7. Consider Vegetable Quality Vegetable quality affects the length of storage. Quality can vary from item to item, variety to variety and season to season. For example, a rainy growing season can cause lettuce to be brown when purchased, or become brown more quickly. Sort vegetables before storage and use bruised or soft vegetables first. Discard those showing evidence of decay.
  8. Follow Length-of-Storage Guidelines Following the guidelines should help to keep vegetables fresh and maximize their storage time in the refrigerator. Consult the food storage chart and use vegetables within recommended refrigerator storage time. Vegetables stored longer than recommended will also turn brown and lose their crispness.

Source: Mid-America Appliance Center http://www.midamericaparts.com/faqrefrigans1.htm accessed Oct. 3, 2008