by Leslie Milby
Storage crops are great for “squirreling” away food for winter.
Many fall harvested veggies — such as beets, squash, turnips and pumpkins, as well as apples, pears and other fruits — fit into this category as they will last a few months when stored correctly.
These crops can then be put into two broadly worded categories: “Cool” and “cold.”
Think of it as, “It’s getting cool, let me put on a sweater” whilst cold is telling your spouse that you aren’t coming home until they let you fire the heat up for the year.
Cool storage crops do best in 45-60-degree temperatures, with ideal locations being a mudroom, an unheated bedroom, basement, or an attached garage.
In hardiness zone 7 which includes the Mid-Shore, that usually can be any room that is not as cold as outside gets, but not as warm as the rest of your home.
Crops that like it cool are dry beans, dried corn, garlic, onions and shallots, as well as pumpkin, sweet potato and winter squash.
Stored in cool temperature, butternut squash can last up to six months. Other crops prefer it quite cold as in 32 to 45 degrees, and when the weather dips unheated, unattached spaces that are dry do well such as an unattached garage, storage shed (wildlife proof) or a secondary refrigerator if available.
This group includeds celery and leeks.
Be conscious of storing your apples and pears in close proximity to your cabbages, carrots, and turnips though — the ethylene gas released from the fruit can make the vegetables deteriorate quicker.
Besides temperature, be sure to also take the curing process of some foods and moisture levels into account in selecting the perfect spot to store your goodies.
Some may like it dry while others do better in a moist climate, and some will need ventilation in the storage container while others will not.
Cure garlic and onions between 70 and 85 degrees at 70 percent humidity for about two weeks, or until the necks are dry and tight.
Potatoes must be cured a bit cooler at 55 to 65 degrees and 95 percent humidity for two to three weeks.
Sweet potatoes, on the other hand like it hot — cure at 85 to 90 degrees and 90 percent humidity for a week.
Winter squash should be cured at 80 to 85 degrees for two to three weeks at 70 percent humidity.
When you settle on the type of storage you’ll need, you can have a bit of fun with it as storage crops can also make a homey statement in your home.
If you have a spot for an old wooden dresser, use it for tubers and root veggies and paint it a statement color and stenciling on the titles contents, which do nicely nestled in cracked open drawers.
Add wooden apple picking baskets or milk crates for some rustic flair.
Don’t really want to make dinner ingredients a display piece? Slide some laundry bins or tubs with venting if necessary under a guest room bed or on shelves in the garage.
From there, just keep an eye on things.
Smell something funny and your husband and dog aren’t in the room?
One of your veggies may not have cured all the way and is rotting.
If you store properly and, unlike squirrels, remember where you put your stash, you should be all ready to nestle in for the winter with plenty of homegrown goodness.