Boo! At least the sprouts of onions like these Red Wethersfields are edible, unlike the just-as-spooky potato sprouts.
One of the things that the lazy person inside me really appreciates about freezing and canning is that, after the item is frozen or canned, it requires no monitoring from me. Root cellar crops require lots more care. And here it is, nearly mid-January, so it’s time for me to make an assessment of the State of the Stored.
The greenhouses and gardens in winter are great places for me to keep root crops like beets, carrots, parsnips, turnips and rutabagas, and it’s there that I go to find them. In the past I have stored them in the root cellar, but frankly they do better (and require less of my care) in the gardens themselves. Leeks, likewise, will be just fine in both the greenhouse and the gardens, and I am able to grow a fair number of salad onions through the winter in the greenhouses (both bunching onions (scallions) and regular onions that haven’t fully bulbed out).
Sprouty onions and potatoes in a cold dark basement are unpleasant, to say the least, especially when I am in a rush to make dinner and have to sort through them. I store these two crops on the floor below my canning jars; the average temperature all winter there is 50*. I try to eat the onions in the order of their sprouting (cipollini first, reds second, yellows third, whites last) and that usually works fine. Potatoes, however, have an internal sprouting clock that goes off with a bang, usually toward the end of January, and frankly there’s not much I can do about that. It would help if my basement were colder, maybe by 10*, but that’s not going to happen either.
In the true root cellar I have cabbage and apples. The daily average back there is about 35*, though it gets much colder on days like today (10*). This “cellar” is simply the back stairs to the basement. It’s far too cold for potatoes and onions out there but these other things are just fine in the cold. In fact, I tend to ignore them. It helps to go through them about once a month and pull out the bad apples, but cabbage lasts all winter.
Winter squash. They’re stored with the canned goods, but tender pumpkins get the kitchen-floor treatment under the butcher block table as it’s warm-ish there (60*). These things all require some vigilance from me. Fortunately we do eat quite a bit of the stuff so I usually have the stash fairly sorted through and eaten in terms of ripeness, but…we usually also hit a “no more squash, please” request right at the time when some of the more tender ones are beginning to go bad. Luckily the geese and turkeys love squash! Uncooked, I just split the things in half and it’s beta-carotene treat time for the poultry. The sometimes even eat the peel.
Anyway, the short answer to the lazy person in me is that all storage requires a bit of vigilance. Every jar’s seal needs to be checked before and after opening; the damned freezers do need to be grumble grumble defrosted annually, and yes, all root cellar crops do have an Eat By date built into them. Frankly I am glad to be able to have the time to do this produce monitoring: I’m certainly much more busy in the growing season!