How to Store Garden Produce
Have you ever looked around your kitchen after a harvest and thought, what in the world am I going to do with all of this produce? You wouldn’t believe how many foods can be stored at room temperature and how long they will last. You CAN store it all.
Have you ever taken the time to find out how each type of food is optimally stored or do you just do what Mom used to do? You can extend the life of your fruits and veggies exponentially if you store them properly and you will be able to save more of it for use later.
USDA and DHS do not allow childcare providers to serve home canned food to children, so canning will not be covered here, but there are so many other ways you can store food, and if you know how to safely can, have at it, there will be one more for you!
- First of all, let’s talk about all of the amazing produce that stores perfectly well at room temperature for months and months.
Garlic: Once garlic is cured for a week or two in a well ventilated, warm area, it can be placed in baskets, braided and hung on the wall, or placed in panty hose and tied to separate each clove with a knot until next year’s harvest. This works best with soft neck garlic.
Sweet Potatoes: Sweet potatoes need to be kept dry, and cured in a 90 degree, well ventilated area for two weeks. Then they can be placed in boxes or baskets that are also well ventilated and stored for months.
Winter squash: Winter squash can be stored at room temperature for several months with no special treatment.
Make sure when you are storing food at room temperature, you check it for bad spots because if a piece of food rots, it may cause the food around it to rot.
Potatoes: White potatoes can be stored in a cool, dark, well ventilated place for several weeks until eaten.
- Shorter life produce that stores at room temperature
Apples and pears can sit in a bowl in your kitchen at room temperature for several weeks. So can citrus fruits and onions.
Tomatoes should NEVER be refrigerated. It ruins the flavor of them. They can sit on your counter for several days or be dehydrated or frozen. Click here to see how to make and freeze your own amazingly wonderful tomato sauce. Click here to see how to make your own healthy rotel.
Bananas of course should never be refrigerated either and last for a few days at room temperature.
Many foods can be dehydrated and stored in an air tight container for months or a year. Grapes, bananas, and other fruits are very tasty dehydrated. Vegetables such as corn, peas, onions, tomatoes and others can be dehydrated and used later in soups and stews. Greens and herbs can be dried for later use as well.
Dehydrated tomatoes make a great topping for salads as well. Hot peppers can be put on a string to dry at room temperature and last for a couple of years.
I make a green powder every year from greens in the garden and use it throughout winter to sprinkle into the kid’s food to enhance the nutrition of it when we are eating grocery store food because the garden is dormant. Click here to see how I make green powder and dry herbs.
Grapes, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, and most other fresh produce can be stored in the refrigerator in your crisper drawers for several days, or up to weeks for things like apples, pears, plums, and citrus fruits.
To make your asparagus last as long as possible, stand it up in a cup in a small amount of water, it will stay fresh longer than you think. The same is true for cut herbs and greens. You can extend the life by several days.
Produce should not be wrapped tightly in plastic. Produce needs to breathe, so use cloth bags, or plastic with ventilation for storage. Greens and lettuces can be rinsed, allowed to dry and wrapped in damp paper towels to reduce the chance of going to waste before you can use it.
Many fruits and vegetables can be blanched or boiled for 1-3 minutes depending on the type of produce, dried completely, and then frozen in air tight containers such as zip lock freezer bags, mason jars, plastic containers or whatever else you have on hand. Green beans, peaches, blueberries, greens that will be used in a casserole. Okra can be blanched, cut, breaded and frozen on a cookie sheet and then placed in an air tight container. Most fruits and vegetables will store in the freezer for 3-6 months or longer.
In addition, you can shred carrots, onions, squashes and other foods and freeze them for use in soups, sauces and casseroles later.
Click here for further instructions on how to freeze produce for storage.
There is no sense wasting your time and money buying or growing your produce if you will just end up throwing it in the compost pile, or worse yet, sending it to the landfill. Plan well and try to only buy the produce you need for a week’s meals. Try to grow the amount of a food that you can use, although that’s a pretty tall order I know. It’s not easy to calculate what will produce for you, but you can always give it a try based on last year’s production. In the end, Mother Nature will do what she wants.
I love learning new ways of storing foods that will help me get the most for my efforts in the garden. How do you store what you grow?
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