Winter Storage Vegetables

It has been more than 10 years since I had a large garden and grew all of the vegetables for my family.  I currently live on a tiny lot in a small village and my garden is about 400 square feet.  This small space has been incredibly productive for me, supplying myself and my family with fresh vegetables from mid April to late in November.  But I am still committed to eating locally and seasonally and so for the past 10 years I have bought a supply of winter storage vegetables from a local organic farmer.  I have a small cold storage in my basement and this has worked amazingly well, despite sharing the basement with an oil furnace.

Buying from a local farmer has many benefits – the vegetables taste so much better than those available in the grocery store, they are often organically grown, and you can develop a friendship with and support those who grow our food.  I try to order my vegetables sometime in late summer so that the farmer knows what to expect from me.  In late August I make a trip to the farm and buy about 1/2 bushel of paste tomatoes which I either can or freeze for the winter.  I also buy my storage onions and garlic and  1/2 bushel of early carrots.  If the onions have not been cured (ask the farmer) then you must do this yourself.  Curing dries the outer skin of the onion and is essential for successful winter storage.  To cure, find a shady spot and lay the bulbs out so that they are off the ground but also have some air ciruculation.  I use an old wooden pallet and leave the bulbs out for about two weeks.  If the sport is sunny, you can cover the bulbs with a light cotton sheet, held down by some rocks.   If there is going to be a lot of rain, cover with some plastic or bring the bulbs inside until the weather clears.  Once the bulbs have dried, put them in an open basket or better still, a mesh bag.  The more air circulation, the better they store.

The rest of my order I pick up in late October or early November, once the weather has really cooled off and my cold storage has cooled down.   The following list should give you an idea of what I order for a family of now 3.

  • 1 1/2 bushels onions
  • 2 bushels carrots
  • 1/2 bushel beets
  • 1/2 bushel parsnips
  • 1/2 bushel leeks
  • 2 bushels potatoes
  • 6-8 rutabagas
  • 8-12 cabbages
  • 30-40 bulbs garlic
  • 15-18 winter squash

This order usually costs me about $200 but it is far cheaper than buying the same amount of vegetables in small quantities from the grocery store.  It takes me the better part of a day to pick everything up, bring it home, and get in all into cold storage.  There are some tips for successful cold storage, that I can cover in a later blog.  For now, find a farmer and transform a small corner of your basement to a cold storage area.  You only have to eat ‘real’ carrots once to realize that it is well worth the effort!

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