Sunday, February 5, 2023

Crops that store themselves

February tomatoes from summer
Sunday, February 5, 2023

Many of us do not have endless freezer space, but would love to eat from the garden year round.  One way to do that is to grow crops that store well without a freezer that keep for months.  There are varying levels of preparation to get them to be storage ready.  This blog covers only the ones that require little effort to get storage ready.
The following crops can be kept over the winter without any refrigeration or cellar needed.  On seed packets and plant descriptions look for wording that states that the crop is good for longer term storage.  Many varieties are bred specifically to keep.

Beans-dry thoroughly and store in Mason jars.  Let bean pods dry until crisp.  Remove from pods and leave in open container to dry for another 2 weeks.  Don't limit yourself to the mainstream varieties of storage beans.  There are so many interesting, ancient varieties to try.  Growing beans  Once dried, they are easy to rehydrate and use.  Even if you don't grow your own, buy heirlooms in bulk to use in winter chilis and soups.  Use dry beans instead of canned
Corn-Pick after husks dry.  Remove husks and store in dry location until kernels come off when ear is wrung.  Store whole in bins or remove kernels and store in Mason jars.  There are so many beautiful, healthy heirlooms out there to grow and use.  Old timers used to store sweet corn as well for months after harvest.  Pull the plants when ripe and store upside down in a garage or pantry.  One of the few keeper varieties for this still available is Stowell's Evergreen Corn.  
Garlic-After pulling, allow to dry in cool, warm location out of the sun.  Braid and hang after 2 weeks in cool place with moderate humidity like a basement.  Or cut back dry stalk after another two weeks and store in open container.  For those that dry out, I will grind into garlic powder.  I personally like to pickle my garlic in organic apple cider vinegar and homegrown hot peppers.  Pickled garlic will keep until next year's harvest.  Garlic harvest is here!
Onions and Shallots-Be sure you have grown storage type onions.  There is a huge difference in how long an onion will last between varieties.  In general, most sweet onion types do not store well.  After pulling, cure in warm, dry location out of the sun for a week or two.  Braid and hang in cool place with moderate humidity.  Or cut back tops, allow to dry another couple of weeks and store in a ventilated storage container.  For more effort try drying them in a dehydrator.  Drying is a great option to have onions on hand for cooking year round.  This is what I do with sweet onions to have them on hand year round.  Everything to know about growing onions
Shallots drying in the shade
Hot peppers-Chose thin skinned varieties like Rocca Rossa that are easy to dry.  I simply place ripe peppers on the counter until they are completely dry and then store in Mason jars or plastic bags.  Other hot peppers that are thick skinned, I cut and put into organic apple cider vinegar to make hot sauce.  Peppers are another great candidate for the dehydrator or drying at a low temp in the oven.  Dried peppers can also be used to make spicy olive oil.  Preserving peppers
Melons-Yes, some types of melons will keep for weeks after picking.  Chose long keeper varieties like Altaiskaya, Banana, Casaba Golden Beauty, Christmas or Santa Claus, Collective Farm Woman, Golden Honeymoon, Lada, Schoon's Hardshell, Vert Grimpant and Zoloistaja.  Store in cool, dark location.
Potatoes-Look for storage types to grow.  There are many varieties out there and some overwinter much better than others.  Harvest when tops begin dying back.  Do not wash!  Cure in cool, dark place with high humidity for 2-3 weeks.  Store in boxes or cloth covered baskets in cool, dark place with moderate humidity like a basement.  Potatoes have to be kept out of sunlight.  If they turn green, do not eat! For more growing and harvesting tips see  Time to plant potatoes, even if you only have a patio
A few storage potato varieties are All Blue, Elba, Katahdin, Kennebec, Dark Red Chieftain, Yellow Fin, Yukon Gem.
Pumpkin and Winter Squash-Harvest after vine has died before hard frost.  Cut leaving 2" of vine for each squash.  Cure in warm, sunny location for a couple of weeks.  Store in open boxes or on a shelf in cool place with moderate humidity.  My butternut squash would keep on the counter into June.  Look for long storage types.  Harvesting and keeping winter squash  You can also buy pumpkins at the store at great prices when they are in season to store for the winter.
Winter squash and pumpkins
Sweet potatoes-Dig at least a month before your first frost.  Cure in warm, humid location for a couple of weeks.  Make sure all skin wounds have scabbed over before moving to winter storage area in a cool, humid area like a basement.  Taste actually improves with storage time.  
Tomatoes-Before a hard frost, pick all your tomatoes, including the green ones.  Wrap each tomato in news paper and place in a dark area.  The tomatoes will ripen over time.  They won't be as wonderful as a vine ripened tomato, but much better than a store bought one.  I have had some tomatoes that last into February this way.  Preserving the tomato harvest
 For the longest storage time, look for varieties that were specifically grown for their long storage ability.  A few of the many available are Burpee's Long Keeper, Garden Peach, Golden Treasure, Graham's Good Keeper, Hopkins Stewart Longkeeper, Long Keeper Winter Storage, Mercuri Winter Keeper, Reverend Morrow's Peach, and Winterkeeper.
Watermelons-Chose long keeper varieties like Blacktail Mountain (keeps 6 weeks), Citron Red Seeded, Crimson Sweet, Kholodok (keeps 3-5 months), Nambe Yellow and Winter King and Queen Watermelon (keeps through Christmas).  Store in cool dark location.

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