Keeping the Harvest Fresh

comments (2) July 7th, 2009

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Click To Enlarge Photo: Krista Borst

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Keep 'em in the dark
Once harvested vegetables come indoors, light raises their temperature, causing increased respiration and moisture loss. So it's wise to keep all stored vegetables in the dark. This is especially true for Belgian endive and potatoes. When exposed to light, they turn green from producing chlorophyll. As a result, Belgian endive becomes bitter, and potatoes create solanine, a chemical toxic to humans. Keep potatoes in a dark closet or basement, or cover them with a thick cloth. Store Belgian endive in the refrigerator.

When you bring fresh vegetables into your house, remember they are living beings at your mercy. You have the power to keep them in tip-top, garden-fresh shape or dash them into chill-injured, wilted, over-ripened, sprouting, rotted blobs. With an understanding of the basics, a little space, and a little time, your tomatoes will never disappoint you again.

Perfect dwellings for vegetables
Refrigerators and basements aren't the only places to store produce. A root cellar is obvious, of course, but few people are lucky enough to have one. If you're ambitious and want to build one, check out Root Cellaring by Mike and Nancy Bubel (Garden Way Publishing, 1997). Barring that, an attic or unheated room in your house might be suitable. A mud room, back porch, or covered cellar stairway is a good possibility. Or think about an outdoor storage shed or garage with extra protection provided by bags of leaves or bales of hay. Just remember to check your cache regularly and be aware that temperatures will dip in these transition zones as the weather cools outside.

Vegetable storage at a glance
Best kept in the refrigerator
(No lower than 32°F, humidity 85-90%)
Artichokes, asparagus, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celeriac, celery, collard greens, corn, endive, kale, leeks, lettuce, parsley, parsnips, peas, radishes, rutabagas, spinach, turnips
Best kept in a cold, humid location
(No lower than 45°F, humidity 85-90%)
Cucumber, honeydew melon, lima beans, okra, peppers, potatoes, green beans, sweet potatoes
Best kept in a cool, humid location
(No lower than 50°F, humidity 85-90%)
Cantaloupe, eggplant, ripe tomatoes, green tomatoes, watermelon
Best kept in a cold, dry location
(No lower than 32°F, humidity 65-80%)
Garlic, onions
Best kept in a cool, dry location
(No lower than 50°F, humidity 65-80%)
Pumpkins, winter squash

by Kathryn Khosla
October 1998
from issue #17

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posted in: Freezing), Preserving (Canning, Drying

Comments (2)

CameronRobertson writes: It's such a sense of achievement when your garden yields something that's worthy of being kept in storage in the kitchen pantry isn't it!
Posted: 11:14 pm on March 1st
bradxray writes: I was having the same problem with most of my veggies wilting. I saw this guys video and tried it. It works great! He just treats them like roses. He cuts the stem and then puts the stalk in water for a few hours. Even if they are alreay wilted, they will perk right up.

Posted: 4:11 pm on October 6th
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