Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Storing Vegetables For Winter Use

I picked up this wonderful how to book on vegetable gardening at the used book store. The book is titled Vegetable Gardening In Color and was written in 1942. It is one of the best garden planning resources I have found and I thought I would share the section on root cellars with you, I found it very informative.

Storing Vegetables for Winter Use

As harvest time approaches, plans must be made for storing vegetables for winter. Such crops as beans, tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, rhubarb and berries are usually canned as they ripen. Many of the root vegetables including beets, carrots, onions, turnips, potatoes as well as squash and the green vegetables like cabbage and celery are easily stored. The season for broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, eggplant and peppers can be extended for several weeks by pulling plants and resetting them in boxes of moist soil in a storage room or pit. Greens like kale and collards need not be stored, since they can stand heavy frost and will remain in the ground over the winter, to be gathered as needed. In sections where the climate is mild, celery can be left in the ground provided it has ample protection or like cabbage it can be dug and stored in a deep trench. Proper temperature, moister content and ventilation are the important factors to consider in preparing a place for storing vegetables.

Since it takes more than a little effort to grow good crops, it is worthwhile to take extra care in storing them. For most families a supply of vegetables stored in the basement or outdoors for winter use is convenient and economical. After harvesting root crops, select those that are free of disease and insects as well as bruises. Remember that it takes only one bad apple to make the entire barrel rotten. Most root crops, as well as celery and cabbage and other green vegetables, are best stored in a cool moist place with a low temperature between 32 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Crocks, baskets or boxes with tight-fitting covers can be used for root crops. As previously suggested, allow about an inch of the stems to remain so that they will not bleed. Roots of parsnips and salsify can be left in the ground over winter and mulched with straw or other material to prevent damage which sometimes results from alternate thawing and freezing. Frost greatly improves the flavor of both these vegetables. One of the exceptions to the requirements for root crops is the onion. It can be kept in about the same temperature, but the storage place must be dry. Store onions in open containers in order to insure proper ventilation. Sweet potatoes, squashes and pumpkins need to be kept for at least ten days in a warm dry place before storing. These crops need a warm temperature of at least 50 degrees. Ventilation must be provided whether in a cellar or an outdoor pit. The problem of moisture in basement storage rooms can be solved by spraying the floor with water occasionally.

Most basements are too warm for the storing of vegetables but it is not difficult to provide a small unheated room, preferably on the cool side of the house away from the furnace. Well insulated walls, a tight fitting door and a window for ventilation but not for light are the simple requirements. Bins and shelves to accommodate the vegetables can be built according to the needs of the individual family. A storage room of this kind is practical for keeping fruit or cut flowers, and naturally must be kept clean and in good order. Any evidence of decay in the vegetable bins or covered containers should be corrected at once because vegetable rots spread quickly.

Vegetables and apples usually can be kept better and longer in outdoor pits, which some gardeners find convenient because of the even humidity. Several kins of pits are used. The simplest is made by digging a trench 2 feet deep and wide enough to accommodate the vegetables to be stored. Leaves or straw can be used to line the trench and to cover the crops after they have been put in place. The earth is hilled up, and more soil must be added as the weather gets colder.

Perhaps the handiest storage pit for the average family is made with a barrel sunk in the ground at an angle of about 45 degrees.

First dig a trench large enough to conveniently hold a barrel. Having set it in place, pile on 5 or 6 inches of soil, and then add a little straw or leaves several inches thick. In cold climates an additional layer of soil with a mulch of leaves will help to keep the pit frost proof. Note that a tight fitting cover is placed over the top of the barrel. An additional protection over the cover may be a layer of leaves or straw held in place by a heavy board.

The hillside pit is sometimes found in rural districts. If you are planning to build a cellar of this kind, the size will naturally be determined by the needs of your family. Choose a place that is easily accessible during the winter months, and provide atight fitting door. Ventilation is also important, be sure to supply it.

Canning and drying are other way of storing food for winter use. All up to date cookbooks and special bulletins published by your state experiment stations will give you details on canning and other methods of preserving food.

2 comments:

theotherryan said...

Interesting post on a good topic.

Mountain_Tracker said...

My two cents - If you're going to do a root cellar, keep in mind that the ground out here freezes below the 5 foot range.

This would mean more then expected moisture and problems.

I noticed you mentioned adding soil and straw to cover the trenches more as the temps drop and I can assure you, once the ground actually does freeze, getting more soil from anywhere but wal-mart is not going to be an easy task.

One more thought, With the temperatures as low as they were this year, I'd be willing to be the ground froze 6 feet or more.

Hope this helps some.
MT