Gardening Articles: Edibles :: Vegetables

Storing the Harvest

by Susan Littlefield

In most parts of the country, gardening season is coming to a close. Depending on where you live, you may still be enjoying a harvest of hardy crops like kale, collards, and Brussels sprouts from the open garden. And with the protection of cold frames, row covers, or tunnels, gardeners in cold-winter climates can continue to reap a bounty of cold-tolerant vegetables such as hardy greens, leeks, and root crops well into the frosty months.

But even if you aren't still harvesting directly from your garden, you can enjoy many vegetables fresh long into the winter if you store them correctly. Winter squash, pumpkins, carrots, parsnips, beets, and turnips can all be stored for months as long as you can provide them with the storage conditions they need.

Plan Your Planting Time with Storage in Mind

While you may want to plant some root crops like carrots and beets in early spring to enjoy during the summer, plant the crops you plan to store as late as possible so they mature as late in the season as possible. The exact timing will, of course, depend on where you live, so use your planned harvest time and the days to maturity of the crop you're growing as a guide. Cold weather sweetens the roots and you'll be putting the freshest produce into a cool root cellar, garage, or back porch. Leave your last planting in the ground until the roots are fully mature; they'll store better if they're protected by a thicker skin.

Plant seeds of winter squash and pumpkins after the soil is warm and all danger of frost is past.

Picking Keepers

Here is a selection of some of the many kinds of vegetables we carry that are great keepers. Choose some for next year's garden, then store them at the end of the season for months of tasty eating.

'Tendersweet' Carrot (75 days)— The uniform, deep red-orange, tapered roots are nearly coreless and hold their color well for canning and freezing.

'Ruby Queen' Beet — Round roots have a smooth skin and shoulders and a uniform, dark-red interior with a buttery texture.

'Detroit Dark Red' Beet (60 days) —Globe-shaped beets are uniform with a small tap root and a deep red interior with indistinct zoning.

'American Purple Top' Rutabaga (100 days) — This high-yielding variety is a good keeper with fine flavor and creamy yellow flesh.

'Butternut (Waltham)' Winter Squash (100 days) —This vigorous, vining plant produces uniform, 7-9 inch long fruits with rich orange flesh that keeps well.

'Small Sugar' Pumpkin (115 days) —Valued for pie making, the 6-8 pound, deep orange fruits are smooth and slightly ribbed, with thick, sweet, dry, bright orange flesh.

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