By Katie Drewitz, U of M Extension
As the growing season comes to an end, the question on how to properly store this year’s crops comes to mind for many gardeners. The length of time and efforts to store these vegetables varies, and it is important to keep in mind only healthy, disease-free produce should be stored.
Being able to find the perfect conditions for optimal storage is difficult. Basements, root cellars, refrigerators, garages, and sheds are all locations people attempt to store produce but, to ensure the longest shelf-life of our produce, here is some helpful information on storing some of your vegetables:
• The first storage category is cold, moist storage. Cold moist storage is defined as 32-40°F, 90-95% relative humidity. Beginning with root vegetables that should be stored in this condition. Beets will store up to five months, be sure to store without tops. Carrots will store up to eight months and should be stored without tops. Parsnips will store up to four months, do not wax, and they have the best sweetness after two-week storage at 32°F. Potatoes will store up to six months, and should be cured at 50-60°F or for 14 days before storage. Rutabaga will store up to four months, do not wax, and will give off odors. Turnips will store up to four months, can be waxed, and will give off odors.
• Cole crops should also be stored in cold, moist storage. Broccoli will store up to two weeks. Cabbage will store up to five months, but it is not recommended to store in the basement because the smell will spread throughout the house. Cauliflower will store up to three weeks. Kohlrabi will store up to two months and should be stored without tops.
• The next storage category is cool, dry storage which is defined as 50-60°F and 60% relative humidity. Pumpkins will store up to two months and are very sensitive to temperatures below 45°F. Winter squash will store for two to six months depending on variety. Field curing is the best option.
• Finally, cold, dry storage which is 32-40°F and 65% relative humidity. Onions cure at room temperature for two to four weeks before storage. Onions should not be stored near apples or potatoes as the apples and potatoes will absorb the onion flavor.
In general, store root crops in layers of moist sand, peat, or sphagnum moss or in a plastic, perforated bag. You can make your own by using a paper punch or a sharp object like a pen or knife and punching or slicing a hole every six-inches. This helps provide essential air movement to prevent condensation, and helps prevent shriveling and prolongs shelf-life. Of course, it is then important to ensure there is good ventilation and the produce is stored in an area where it will not sustain rodent damage.
To obtain ideal temperatures, you may want to consider using straw, hay, or wood shavings to insulate the bags of produce in areas where the temperatures would dip too low and cause loss. In general, expect the shelf-life to be shortened by 25% for every 10°F increase in temperature.
Finally, be sure to check on your produce to ensure they haven’t started to mold or started to go bad. Discard any that show signs before it impacts others. For a more complete list on storing vegetables, visit www.extension.umn.edu and search “storing vegetables.” You can also reach out to your Local Extension Educator, Katie -Drewitz, at (320) 255-6169 ext. 1 for additional information.