2013 Oxbow Winter Newsletter #1 – Storing the Harvest for Winter

Winter is fast approaching as last weeks’ storm alluded too. It’s cold, rainy and muddy on the farm. The farmers are in their wool watchmen’s caps and summer warmth is a distant memory.  Now it’s time to think about storing what’s left of the harvest. Until we started shipping produce from the other hemisphere to get summer produce in winter we relied on preserving and storage crops to get us through the long winter. You’ve just spent 20 weeks eating locally grown produce and re-gaining an appreciation of what that means as far as seasonality and taste (some of you will extend the season with our winter share)… But now what? Certainly you’ll head back to the grocery store for your veggies and fruits, and maybe you found time this summer to get some canning done. With a little planning you can also easily store many of the vegetables that farmers are selling at the farmers market and we’ll packing into our winter shares.

This cooler weather is great for growing the sweetest carrots, parsnips, beets and brassicas (cabbage, kale, collard & broccoli), and these are all storage crops! So load up at market and with our winter share and get storing and you can keep enjoying your favorite farmers’ produce for months to come. Here is some basic information on how to best store your veg for the next few months. If you would like more in-depth info from Cornell, click here.

The roots: carrots, beets, parsnips & celeriac should have the greens removed for storage. In fact it’s best to remove the greens as soon as possible, because the plant panics when pulled from the ground and shifts into reproduction (seed making) mode; this directs its stored sugars from the root to the tops. So remove those greens and keep those roots sweet! Roots like it pretty cold and wet, 32-34 degrees and 90% humidity, store in a plastic bag in your crisper and they will last up to 3-5 months. As they age they lose moisture, their skins will dry out and they might start to go a little soft. Peel away dry skin to reveal the beauty underneath. Once they go soft (but not squishy) they are destined for soup or making stock.

Potatoes, once cured, are the king of the storage crops in part because they are relatively easy to keep over winter and because they are such a versatile & loved vegetable. They have kept many bellies full through many winters. There are a few key storage rules:

  1. Not too cold or the starches will convert to sugar – they’re happiest between 40-50 degrees
  2. Find a dark place – light will cause a mildly toxic alkaloid called solanin to form in the skin causing it to turn green. This can be peeled away. So if yours go a little green don’t fret, just grab a peeler.
  3. Keep them away from onions – the onions give off a gas that causes to potatoes to sprout prematurely. Speaking of sprouts, aka “eye’s” sprouting potatoes can still be eaten as long as it’s still firm, simply cut out the offending eye. Once potatoes get soft, shriveled, wrinkled & sprouting they are worm food.

Cabbage is also a super storage veggie and a green one at that. Like our roots they also like a cool, wet home. Store in your crisper in a loose plastic bag for up to 4 months! And if you’re feeling adventurous you can store cabbage for even longer by fermenting it.

Winter squash and pumpkins, also storage kings. Handled properly they will last the winter, keeping tummies full, happy & healthy. To store for a long winter, most squashes like to be cured first by storing at room temp for 10-20 days, this will also improve the flavor and up the sweetness (we have done this for you). Once cured they will be happiest stored in a cool, 50-55 degrees well ventilated place, like your basement or garage.  Note: if you store them in your garage you will need to make sure they don’t freeze and if you live in an old house (like me) you might want to take some extra efforts to protect them from squirrels (A fluffy tailed devil got all of mine last year)!

Alliums: Garlic, Shallots and Onions, they will have dry, papery skins and like it cool – 50-60 degrees, dark and well ventilated. It’s also best to keep them from potatoes; moisture given off by potatoes will cause onions to spoil. Under these conditions they will last you for a few months. Note, the onions and garlic you’ll be receiving from us from here on out has been cured and are ready to store….

Luke, Adam, Sarah, Megan, Bridget, Tino, Yolanda, Valentin, Julio-Cesar,Mike, Marianna, Lisa, Alice, Sarah D, Dana, Joshua, Arwen, Grace, Brandon, (and our inspiration Pearl, Emuna, Avi Ray & Zoe Rose).