One of the greatest challenges to eating locally is how to preserve the bountiful harvest of summer for the lean months ahead. Canning, drying and freezing works for many vegetables, but root crops are best preserved “as is” in a cool, humid place. Without a root cellar, you need to improvise. With the right conditions, root vegetables keep for months. Between 32 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit (or 0 and 4.5 degrees Celsius) with 95 percent humidity keeps them crisp and fresh.
Shelf life of root vegetables under ideal conditions:
Beets – 1 to 3 months
Carrots – 4 to 6 months
Potatoes – 5 to 8 months
Turnips – 4 to 5 months
Black Radish – 4 to 5 months
To create ideal storage conditions you need to insulate the space as much as possible to guard against fluctuations in temperature and humidity. Here are a few ways:
Basement and Boxes
Build an insulated closet in a corner of your basement where there is a foundation window. You can maintain an ideal temperature by opening and closing the window. Humidity is controlled by leaving a pan of water on the floor to slowly evaporate. The roots can be spread out on wooden shelves for easy monitoring and you can grab them when needed. You will need a reliable thermometer and hygrometer to keep the climate fine tuned.
Another option is to line wooden crates with peat moss. Layer root vegetables with moistened peat. Keep a close eye on them, removing any that appear rotting.
If you don’t have a basement, put root crop in storage boxes in your crawlspace, garage, mudroom, under the back porch or anywhere else that stays cool but doesn’t freeze.
Here is what we have this week at www.rumarfarm.ca
Root Vegetables – Beets, Carrots, Potatoes, Turnips and Winter Radish
Melons – Black Mountain and Bradford
Winter Squash – Red Kuri, Delicata
Tomatoes – Canning, Heirloom, Cherry
Hot and Sweet Peppers
Salad Greens – Mustard mix, Rumar Farm Lettuce mix, Arugula, Komatsuna
Ruth and Marc