Storing Fruit & Vegetables

What are you supposed to do with all the fruit and vegetables you grew this summer besides eat it and give it to your neighbors? Many fruits and vegetables will store well and give you fresh fruit all winter, if you do it correctly. The extension service has a booklet called “Home storage of fruits and vegetables” that gives a detailed description about storing fruit. Listed below are just a few of the more common fruits and vegetables with a brief description of storing them. Stop by the extension service for the more detailed booklet.

Harvest winter squash and pumpkins, for storage, when the vines begin to die in the fall. You can harvest and eat most winter squash any time during the summer and fall when the squash have turned to their mature color. For storage, the skin should be hard and impervious to scratching. Test by scratching the skin with your fingernail. Leave one inch of the stem on each fruit and let the fruit cure for ten days in a warm, dry place before putting them in storage. Use any soft, blemished, or damaged fruit first. Store squash in fifty to fifty-five degrees.

Pick tomatoes before they freeze. Store green or slightly pink tomatoes in a closet or other dark area until they ripen. Cover your tomatoes with a newspaper to help maintain their moisture. Tomatoes stored at 65 - 70 degrees will ripen in about two weeks; at 55 degrees they ripen in three to four weeks; below 50 degrees they will spoil before they ripen. Check them regularly.

The onions that store best are usually grown from seed rather than sets. Harvest onions when the tops turn brown and die, before the ground freezes. Do not store bruised onions with thick necks; eat these first. Do not break or crush the leaves to make the tops die down faster. Breaking the leaves encourages “neck rot” and make weeks until the skins are papery and the roots are completely shriveled. When cured, store the onions in mesh bags or open crates in a cool, dark, well ventilated place at 32 degrees.

Late potato varieties store better than early ripening varieties. Harvest after the vines die in the fall. Do not store any bruised potatoes. Allow the potatoes to dry for ten to fourteen days in a shady or dark area between 45 - 60 degrees before storing them for the winter. Store potatoes at 40 degrees. Lower temperatures turn the starch into sugar and sprouting will occur.

Apples like to be stored at 30 - 32 degrees with a 90% humidity. Professional storage sheds remove all the oxygen from the shed and replace it with nitrogen; to keep the apples from rotting prematurely. You can buy fresh apples all winter long from these storage sheds. Apples stored at 40 degrees ripen twice as fast as those stored at 32 degrees. Store apples in cardboard boxes lined with a plastic bag. Perforate the plastic bag to allow air circulation but still maintain the right amount of moisture. Wrapping each apple in newspaper helps prevent one bad apple from spoiling all the surrounding apples.

Carrots may be covered with six to twelve inches of straw and left in the garden to be harvested all winter. If you dig your carrots for storage, carefully dry and remove the excess dirt. Cut the stem close to the carrot. Store carrots in fresh sawdust or clean straw in a cool, moist area. Keep them as close to 32 degrees as possible