It is one thing to grow a great harvest, it is yet another to ensure that your harvest lasts you over the winter months.
I will do a few blogs about different types of storage, this one is “dry storage” or using a cool room/cellar etc:
Leave your Pumpkins/Squash etc., on the vine until the stalks start to look a little dried out, then pick. It is even better if you can wait until the vine dies. And what is the best of all, is leaving your Pumpkins/Squash on the vines until they get a frost, which will harden their skins off, so that you will get the longest possible store time from out of them. After picking, finish drying them in a warm dry place, like in front of the fire or in the sun, but only if the hottest part of summer is over (or they may become sunburned).
Pumpkins can be tricky to store. They really do not like to be sat flat on shelves. The pressure of their weight can cause soft spots to form which are prone to rot. They are best nestled in beds of soft straw or in something like pillows, or you can sit them in scrunched up newspaper in shaped baskets (as I have done above – see above).
If you must sit them on shelves, turn the over every week or so, to reduce the pressure on the same spot all the time. Pumpkins and other curcubits like Squash and Marrow’s, require drying and storing in a warmish dry place – never on concrete or damp ground… (also do not store in a cold room or fridge).
Drying freshly picked Pumpkins and Butternut on a slatted shelf unit in the house in front of the wood fire (above). Once they are properly dried and “cured”, I then transfer them to the laundry at the back of the house, which is kind of like our food cellar room!
See above – a couple of “soft” spots on one of the pumpkins that has been stored flat on a shelf. We will be cutting up and using this one first, and trying to not store any more of our pumpkins in this manner if possible.
The best way to dry/cure Onions and Garlic for storage is to lie them on paper (above) in the sun – but once again only if the hottest part of summer is already over (or they will get sunburned), otherwise put them in a warm shed or under cover somewhere and turn them over daily. When the skins have all turned papery like and the leaves have shriveled up, they are dry or cured. Then they can be hung up to store. If there is no sun, put them on paper by your fire or in a warm part of your house until dry. NOTE: do not clean or rub the skins off your Onions and Garlic if you want to store them, as this will reduce their life.
Garlic and Onions are best stored hanging by their stalks/leaves, (as above). The other way of doing this is putting them in net stockings and hanging the stocking from the roof. Garlic and Onions do not like being stored flat either, as they cannot breathe and they are prone to rot. Hanging them this way means you can cut them down to use.
If you do need to store Onions or Garlic by not hanging them up for some reason, the best way is nestled in paper in the bottom of a soft cardboard box (see above). Just make sure they are properly dried and “cured” first.
If you are storing potatoes, you need to leave them in the ground until the plants die right down. Do not water in the last couple of weeks, as this will prevent the skins from drying and “curing” for storage over winter. The plants will go brown, wilt off and start to fall over, this is when you can start to carefully dig up your potato crop for storing.
To dry potatoes, dig them from the garden, gently brush any dirt off them with some soft fabric and put them straight onto paper to dry. (above) Do not wash them, or wipe them, and be careful of damaging them with fingernails – I always handle ours with gloves on now, after the first damage disaster. And do not put them in the sun – in fact put them out of the light completely, or they will go green. Potatoes need to be “cured” for a couple of weeks before being put into airy basket storage. If they are not being stored in a dark place, cover the baskets with something like folded up paper bags or even newspapers.
Storing and checking Potatoes: Potatoes are best stored in woven baskets so they can breathe. Store ONLY Potatoes that are hard to the touch, unblemished and undamaged. Otherwise, they can be prone to rot.
Every couple of weeks, empty out all your potatoes of the basket into another container (carefully), and put them back into the woven basket one by two, checking for firmness and signs of potential rot. Only re-store the Potatoes that are still firm. Anything slightly soft, going wrinkly, looking “sad” or going off, put aside to use up immediately. Also take out any that are starting to sprout, as this sprouting uses up all the flesh of the Potato, which is a waste. In case you did not know, all bought Potatoes (other than Organic ones and “New” Potatoes, are sprayed with a hormone spray called Dormatone, which stops them from sprouting by interrupting the hormone released by the Potatoes. This is one other reason why it is better to grow your own, as who wants to be eating hormones?!
Put your Potato basket back on your shelf to store, and re-check again in another couple of weeks. Potatoes like to be stored in a cool, shaded place. Do not keep them completely in the dark, or they will start to sprout! They are fine in a “cool” room, but not in a fridge. Never store Potatoes on a concrete floor, always on a wooden shelf. Ours are stored in woven baskets on wooden shelves in our laundry, which sits between cold and warm, so it is good for both Curcubits (Pumpkin family) and also Potatoes and other vegetables. It is probably around about 10C in there. NOTE: because your Potatoes are being stored in their natural form, you WILL get sprouting occur in springtime, but then you can either set some of these aside to grow your new crops from, or just pull the sprouts off and eat the Potatoes. We always have enough to plant and eat, until we get our new crops come thru.
Treat Maori Potatoes (NZ Natives), in the same way as Irish Potatoes. They do not store as well, so use before your Irish Potatoes, but they do store for a few months. Just keep checking them and using as they go soft, or before.
Again with Yams, these are the same as Potatoes. Store them in woven baskets to let the air flow, to help prevent them going rotten. Cover with cardboard or paper and store on a wooden shelf. Keep checking them weekly and use up any that are going soft or looking like they may be going to start going off. Store Yams in a cool place.
To store Beetroot, use something like a bucket a cool, dark place – uncovered, and use before they go soft. They will not last as long as some of the other vegetables, but you should be able to get a couple of months out of them.
When you are finished checking all your vegetables, you will probably have some over to use for dinner that night and maybe for the next night too! This time, I had a few Beetroot, Irish Potatoes and Maori Potatoes to use up.
Happy storing and eating! Suz
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