On long-storage vegetables

Forgot to take a pic of the actual cabbage last night. In its stead, please accept newly-planted Savoy cabbage babies in the garden. It’s so exciting when the babies get big enough to move out from the greenhouse.

When I started seed-saving, I began to pay attention to heirlooms that were known for long-term storage. This was a different way of thinking for me. I would not necessarily say that I normally am motivated by instant gratification, but…dang, first taste out of the garden is how I had always selected my vegetables! So the very idea that things that’re grown to be stored, and actually improve with storage, was surprising to me.

The freezer is being emptied nightly. We’re also at rock bottom of the root cellar items. They’re as rare as hen’s teeth now: I probably only have about two pounds of onions left! Potatoes, winter squash, and beets are long gone, carrots (due to a wet August and not a gardener’s oversight) were gone by the beginning of December, and I have but one lonely celeriac left. And last night we ate our last cabbage.

But improve, change taste, they do. This cabbage? Positively sweet, positively darling. None of that sulfurous stink common to its species. It cries for butter, a touch of salt, a gentle heating. It’s like it’s saying to me: good things come to those who wait.

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11 responses to “On long-storage vegetables

  1. I’d like to hear how you store your long-storage vegetables. I’ve never tried to store cabbage before, just potatoes. The carrots I blanched and froze last year, but would rather keep them raw.

  2. Hi Kelli: Mostly, I rely on a book called Root Cellaring for tips for individual vegetables (see the tab above that says Books for the source). Let’s just say I love low-tech. I have a stairway from the outside of the house to the basement, so I use that unheated space to store stuff. I set open plastic bins of individual varieties of onions, pears, apples, and cabbage on each step. Until it got too cold to keep them out there, I had individual plastic bins filled with sand that held carrots, beets and celeriac. Once it got really cold, these guys moved in downstairs next to the potatoes. The potatoes were stored in wood boxes on the cold concrete of the basement floor, covered with dark towels or burlap sacks. Winter squash was kept on a shelf near the ceiling of the basement (it was warmer than the floor).

    None of the produce would exactly win a beauty contest when they’re at the end of their storage life, but…well, dang, they tasted just fine, and some even improved! It was rather great in the depths of a cold February to eat something “fresh” out of the root cellar. I need to actually do some final culling of the apples: maybe a huge apple pie? Or more applesauce?

    Anyway, this was a fun food year. I can’t wait until this autumn as I really intend to go a bit more nuts with the storage items.

  3. Do you have a list of good storage varieties?

  4. Oh gawd Emily I do…what are you up for? It could be a really long list. I could email it to you if you would like…

  5. No way! Post it, or you might be emailing it to several of us! 😉 Seriously, I’d love to take a peak at your list.

    Oh, and I feel soooo badly for you, what with only a few onions left, she who had no storage onions or potatoes this winter thanks to the drought said, her voice dripping with sarcasm. *evil grin*

  6. Yes, please post the list! This is a fellow southwest Michigan gardener requesting 🙂
    Your blog is great and I am thrilled to have found it!

  7. Okay! Will do, Danielle, Rachel; it may take me a little bit of time to come up with the list, so stay tuned!

    Danielle, yep, I was in your shoes two years ago so I went nutso with the onions last year, direct planting seeds, planting starts I made, planting starts I bought, and planting sets. Sets suck if you ask me, and I have never been hugely successful with onions I start from seed indoors. Seeds outdoors work okay for me though. BUT: last year I had the opposite problem as you: too much rain and my carrots rotted, my cabbage and Brussels sprouts drowned, my artichokes imploded and the early and mid-season potatoes were crap.

    Rachel: Hi! I am always so glad to learn there are other people in my area who garden! We seem to be really rare…

  8. Great stuff. I wanted to know more about cellaring vegetables as well. I don’t know why. I don’t have a cellar. The closest thing is an unheated garage. I wonder if that would work in D.C.’s variable winters…

  9. I think our problem is that our basement is new (we put a new one under our 133-year-old house), and it has floor heat throughout. So really too warm for a root cellar. However you got me thinking. There’s an unheated room over our garage. The garage also has floor heat, but we keep it as low as it will go, 45 degrees. I would expect that room above it is colder than that, but probably not freezing since it would be getting some warmer air from below. Will have to try that for storage next year. Looking forward to your list of keepers 🙂

  10. I’ve been thinking about where I could store vegetables in my house and I keep wondering about sectioning off a space in my unheated attached garage as well. Can anyone recommend a (hopefully very cheap) radiant heat product that can be set to 40 or 45 degrees, just to keep the freeze away?

  11. Kelli and JimmyCC: I was rather amazed at the relook of places to store food that this book mentioned. Seriously, any nook or overlooked cranny! JCC: for some things, even freezing is not too much of a problem. I would say find that book and research it a bit in terms of how cold things will go for you. Mostly, small electric heaters can be put on timers and set really low to keep areas warm, but maybe you won’t need it if your garage doesn’t get lower than 30. Anyway, check it out. I do think most heaters would work for you though, but maybe lower tech might be the way to go.

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