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High Mowing Organic Seeds
High Mowing Organic Seeds High Mowing Organic Seeds

Storing The Fall Bounty Megen Hill - High Mowing Organic Seeds' Sales Associate

We have all worked hard in our gardens and on our farms, reaping the harvest all season long, from spring greens and peas to main season broccoli and green beans.  We’ve been canning pickles and salsa, freezing beans and corn, and drying herbs so that we can enjoy the flavor of a summer meal while warming up near the woodstove after a long day on the ski slopes (at least this is how I like to spend my winters).  Now we are bringing in the fall crops, which thankfully do not take as much effort to store as all the summer crops, but it is handy to know the optimal conditions for their long-term storage.

There are three main categories for which we can divide crops by for storage:
  • Cool and Dry (Onions & Garlic) ,
  • Cold and Moist (Beets, Carrots, Parsnips, Turnips & Rutabagas) , and
  • Warm and Dry (Pumpkins & Winter Squash) .  

Cool and Dry Storage - (Onions & Garlic)
Storage tips for onions and garlic Cool and Dry storage requires temperatures between 32 and 50 degrees F and 60 – 70 % relative humidity.  Onions and garlic store well under these conditions.  For onions, choose late maturing varieties with thin necks for long-term storage.  Harvest once the tops have drooped over.  Harvest onions on a dry day and allow to cure in the sun for several days.  At this point, trim the tops to about an inch and allow them to continue curing for another two to three weeks in a dry and shady location.  Once cured, they can be stored in mesh bags or another breathable contain er for long-term storage.  Garlic, on the other hand, should be harvested when about 1/2 to 2/3 of the leaves have turned yellow.  Allow to cure in a dry, well-ventilated location for about 10 days.  Trim the roots and tops and store in paper bags.  While garlic prefers an even lower humidity of about 50 %, we store ours along with our onions in our unheated spare bedroom and they last until spring.

Cold and Moist Storage
- (Beets, Carrots, Parsnips, Turnips & Rutabagas)
Cold and Moist storage requires temperatures between 32 and 40 degrees F and 80 to 95 % relative humidity, which can be achieved in a refrigerator or a cold, moist cellar.  Crops stored best under these conditions are beets, carrots, parsnips, turnips, and rutabagas.  They prefer the higher end of the humidity range, between 90 and 95 %.  These crops should be late maturing varieties harvested in the fall, rinsed (but not scrubbed), with their tops trimmed to within a half inch, and once dry they should be stored in plastic bags with small perforated holes.  This helps keep in the moisture while allowing airflow.  Potatoes can also be stored with these same crops, but prefer the humidity levels between 80 and 90 %.  Be sure to wait for harvest until after their tops have died back and dried up, being careful not to bruise during harvest.  They should not be washed or scrubbed, but the soil can be gently brushed from the tubers.   They need to be cured for one to two weeks in a warm (60 – 75 degrees F), moist, and dark location.  Under these conditions, these crops will store for four months or longer.

Warm and Dry Storage
- (Pumpkins & Winter Squash)
Storing Organic Squash Warm and Dry storage requires temperatures between 50-60 degrees and 60 – 75 % relative humidity.  Pumpkins and winter squash store well under these conditions and can be treated similarly, although pumpkins prefer slightly higher humidity.  It is important for long-term storage to wait for harvest until the fruits are fully mature, which can be tricky since the fruit often looks mature before it has fully ripened.  It is safe to harvest once the skins have hardened and cannot be punctured by your fingernail.  Acorn squash will develop an orange spot where the fruit has laid in contact with the ground.  It is very important to harvest before the frost hits as frost damage will shorten their shelf life dramatically.  Harvest leaving the stem intact.  Removing the stem will leave an open wound that is susceptible to spoilage. After harvest, cure at temperatures between 80 – 85 degrees for about two weeks before moving to long-term storage.  Although, acorn squash should not be cured and require lower storage temps of about 45 to 50 degrees F to maintain their good flavor and texture.  Your squash and pumpkins will store best if laid in a single layer about an inch apart rather than in a pile. Attics, spare bedrooms, under the bed, and closets are often with the ideal temperature range.

So, now as the cool weather settles in, you can finally put your feet up knowing that you have stored away your bounty.  Jars are filled, the freezer is packed, the root cellar and spare room are loaded with goodies and you’re just about ready to browse through next season’s seed catalogs and dream about doing it all over again!

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