When you grow your own food you know that the season matters. You have a glut of one kind of food on your hands in one season and then a few months later you are yearning to taste that special flavor once again. The winter time is particularly hard on people who are used to growing and eating their own foods. Unless you live in a very tropical climate there is not much you can grow in the midst of the cold and icy winter. However you can save your plenty for these times of want by properly preserving your produce.
While freezing and canning are options that will allow you to make the most of your home grown treats, sometimes we just want something that has not been processed. There are some foods that will successfully store for months in the right conditions. Here are some tips for storing these select items of produce to enjoy all winter long:
Storing apples is easier than you would think. It all starts out with the proper temperature. Apples continue to ripen at any temperature over forty degrees. However they freeze at temperatures less than thirty. Your ideal storage location would be a cellar or something similar which maintains a constant temperature of between thirty to forty degrees.
Once you have a place in mind, make sure the apples you pick are ripe. Ripe apples store the longest. Some varieties of apples store better than others too. Late ripening apples like Fuji, Rome or Red Delicious tend to store longer. Do not mix the varieties as all apple varieties ripen at their own pace. Make sure the apples are freshly picked and not over ripe before they go into storage. Smaller apples also tend to store for longer than larger ones.
You know the old saying, “One bad apple spoils the bunch”? Well, it is actually true! Make sure that the apples you pick are bruise and damage free. Even one apple that rots can spoil an entire bunch. Check your apples after storage as well to look for signs of rotting. Remove any rotting apples immediately before it spreads.
Apples like plenty of air flow and humidity. Some people even store them with a damp cloth over the top. However your goal should be to keep them at a constant temperature and keep them from bruising.
As apples tend to pick of the flavors of what they are stored near, do not store the apples close to items like onions or garlic. Potatoes are also a bad thing to store near apples as they make the apples ripen faster.
If you follow these directions then you can have fresh apples all winter long!
Garlic and Onions
Speaking of stinky produce, garlic and onions are both pungent and practical for long term storage. They both store extremely well and can last a very long time if properly prepared.
First of all, your onions and garlic should be dried before storing. This is best done by laying them out in a dry, well-ventilated area out of the sun. It can take over a week for them to dry completely but you will know when they are dry because the outer layer will become papery and brittle.
Once your onion and garlic are dry you need to store them properly. Onion likes a temperature of around forty degrees. Store them in a cool, dark place and they will last a long time. Mesh bags and crates work well for onion storage. Some people even hang them in pantyhose! Just make sure the onions are not tightly packed and have plenty of ventilation.
Garlic also loves ventilation and darkness; however it should not be stored with onions as they can hasten each other’s spoiling. Since garlic loves to be dry, you can store it at almost any temperature. The best way to store garlic long term is in a brown paper bag. Punch a few holes in the bag for ventilation and then staple or pin it shut. Place the bag in a dry, dark place and your garlic will last you for months.
Drying and storing beans for the winter is a process that has gone on for ages. Beans naturally dry up and are very easy to store with little effort. However there are some small tips you should be aware of.
First of all, you should let the bean pods dry on the plant. This will allow them to ripen fully and also make the harvesting process easier. Once you remove the dried seed pods from the pant it is a snap to harvest the beans. You will know they are ready to harvest when the pod becomes thin and papery and you can hear the beans rattle when shaken.
Remove the beans from the pod and spread out in a thin layer to dry completely. If you wish to speed up the process of air drying you can place them in a dehydrator or a very low temperature oven. To clean the beans simply blow away any dirt with a hair dryer.
Before storing the bans you should freeze them overnight to kill off any bugs. Then place the beans in an airtight container and store them in a cool, dry place away from sunlight. They are great in soups and meals all winter long!
Storing potatoes is something that many people rely on. As a root crop they can be kept rather easily through the winter. There are a few tricks to preserving them successfully however.
Some varieties of potatoes store better than others. Ones with thick skins usually store the best. Russet, Yukon Gold, and Kennebec are all good potatoes for long term storage.
First of all, when you harvest the potatoes make sure you do not wash them. You should only wash them right before you plan on using them. You can brush off any extra dirt but make sure not to damage the skin of the potato.
Before storing you need to cure the potatoes. This is done by laying them out on newspaper to dry in a cool, dark and well-ventilated location. Let their skins firm up and cure for two weeks before moving on to the next step.
Once they have cured you can move on to storage. The best idea is to get a box or storage container with ventilation. Layer the potatoes with newspaper, allowing for plenty of breathing room. I.e. newspaper, layer of potatoes, newspaper, and so on until the container is full.
Store your potatoes in a DARK, cool and dry location. They like temperatures in the forties. You should not refrigerate potatoes as it takes away from their flavor and nutritional value.
Regularly inspect potatoes for rot or eye formation. Once they start to grow eyes they get bitter. One rotten potatoes can also spoil the whole bunch, so remove it immediately.
Carrots and Beets
Another kind of root vegetable, carrots are commonly grown but less commonly stored correctly. Along with their red brethren, the beet, they are easy to keep all winter long. Here are some tips to keep your beets and carrots tasty through the chilly season:
First, when you harvest the carrots and beets you should cut off the green tops as close as you can without harming the root. Leaving the green part on your produce means that the moisture will be sucked from the root and that leaves your carrots and beets dry, cracked and less than tasty.
Inspect the carrots and beets for imperfections and do not wash them. Just gently brush off any excess dirt. In a box, layer the carrots and beets with slightly damp sand. Make sure there is sand between each layer. Carrots and beets need moisture but not too much or it will cause them to rot. However if it gets too dry they will crack and become inedible.
It is a delicate balance, but you should be able to keep them moist and safe when stored in a cool, dark place. Make sure to check regularly for dampness and rot and to remove any rotting carrots or beets so they do not spoil the rest.
As you can see, it is easy to store a variety of produce through the winter without having to freeze, can or even refrigerate them. Doing things the old fashioned way is often the best and with a little effort you can have great tasting produce all winter long!
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