Cold storage of root vegetables

It’s time to think about holding some crops for later use.

Vegetables have different requirements when it comes to storing over the winter. Canning, blanching and freezing, pickling and drying are ways to preserve food for later use. Many root vegetables, however, need little more than good storage practices. If you want to keep potatoes, carrots and other root vegetables with minimum work, cold storage may be for you.

The first step in your process should be finding a safe source of information. The National Center for Home Food Preservation, USDA and Michigan State University Extension can provide that information for you.

When storing root vegetables without processing, the first thing you must do is let them mature and stay in the ground for as long as possible. They should be in good shape; not bruised, nicked or cut. When you’re ready, harvest the root vegetables and wash the dirt off gently, letting them air dry. The leaves should be cut to about ½ inch – if harvesting rutabagas, the taproot can be cut as well.

When dry, gently place in a cool, dark place for storage. Some vegetables can be places in netted bags and hung (onions); others should be placed in bins with slats or openings for ventilation. The humidity needs to be kept high to prevent shriveling of these root vegetables as well. Inspect regularly to check for quality. If they are shriveling, the humidity is too low; if they start to sprout, the temperature is too high. Always throw out anything that is rotting before it spreads to other items.

If you have a way to do it, carrots and parsnips can be left in the garden and used throughout the winter right from the garden – just apply mulch to prevent freezing and thawing, and pick at will. They may become much sweeter staying in the ground!

If you would like more information about food safety, visit Michigan State University Extension.

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