10/12 Edible Gardening 101: Cold Storage
Well, Well, Well…..hello fall. It’s been a good summer and Gardener you was so on the ball. You now have produce coming out of your ears. The first and easiest method of preservation is cold storage. It can also be known as root cellaring but I hesitate to call it that simply because so few people have proper root cellars today. But they do have pockets of microclimates that create optimal conditions for certain food storage. And there are now some creative ways you can search up to build cold storage using old freezers, and unused rooms with coolbots and air conditioners. For myself, I use an unheated barn. For a more comprehensive guide to root cellaring, you can read Stocking Up by Rodale Press. It’s a great book for food storage.
When I grew up on a 200 year old Welsh farm, my grandparents had a proper root cellar and a cold room and at our house close by, we had an unfinished basement we used to store food from the fields. We also had walk-in coolers for hanging meat to cool so we didn’t use those for vegetables that I remember. After the orchard was picked of apples and pears,, they went in a wooden bin in the root cellar. A little under ripe if possible but otherwise no special treatment. But not with the onions and potatoes as they off-gassed and created quick spoilage.
Carrots were washed in cold water to shock and stored in bins between layers of sawdust. Today, I store carrots in the ground when I remember to plant them in mid August and we dig them as we need them all winter.
I also have laid carrots in single layers in the wooden crates I keep in my barn between layers of straw. I have successfully kept them for months and months this way. We have alot of humidity here on our island which is good for cold storage, as it cannot be a dry cold, which will cause freezing.
I do the same for potatoes,squash, turnip , parsnips and beets, after they are cured for two weeks. This means keeping them undercover on racks to develop a thicker skin perfect for longer storage.
I take care to cover my crates with wool blankets if the temperatures dip below minus 15, checking them often as I do the “grocery shopping” in the barn.
I also store onions and garlic after drying on racks, screens or pallets . These are able to be tied together in bunches and hung from rafters.
In order not to waste vegetables that do show signs of softening, I will often use them first or cook and freeze them or can them.
Another form of cold storage is holding spinach plants and lettuces in cold frames throughout the winter. Planting in August and having mature plants by late October to hibernate throughout the winter months and be able to be picked when needed. I LOVE my cold frame for fresh greens.
While the beets, carrots, squash, pumpkins, garlic, and onions are holding strong, we just ran out of potatoes. We lost part of our harvest this year to a scab. But eating potatoes from our garden for six months in cold storage is still something to be so thankful for.
Up next : Dehydrating
Love Jenn xx